Marolt: Snowmass Town Council making out-of-bound turns on a dangerous slope
I love Gwyn’s High Alpine Restaurant. You love Gwyn’s. Everybody loves Gwyn’s. Even Gwyn’s landlord, Aspen Skiing Co., loves Gwyn’s. The only problem is some people love Skico even more than they love Gwyn’s. Not incidentally, most of these people work for Skico and drive new Audis.
They say love can move mountains, but perhaps those people have never seen Snowmass’ mountain. It is the largest moneymaking area within Skico’s holdings. Not even all the love this town and its generations of faithful visitors can generate will move it, much less the hearts of the modern day miners of dollars who operate it and will follow every vein of green to the core of the Earth to bolster the bottom line.
We all know this. It is why we are looking to our Town Council to come to the rescue and throw its formidable wimpyness at the issue. We would have a better chance to sell out an alcohol-free mammoth bone convention in Town Park in October.
Remember, this is our Town Council; a governing body that couldn’t enforce the five-year vesting rights agreement on which the second developers of Base Village reneged because council was afraid of things getting worse.
Fifteen years later and too many developers to keep track, nobody is wondering how much worse the project might have been. It was cinched after we accepted a Trojan horse, which the developers owed us, by the way, in the form of retail space in Base Village that we have no use for.
In this case, however, council’s impotence is actually a good thing. Aside from providing us with some much appreciated entertainment during the suddenly cold end to offseason, Town Council has wandered out of bounds under the ropes in the lease discussions between Gwyn’s and Aspen Skiing Co. They know not the instability in the deep layers of the placid-looking snow slope they are traversing. We might all get buried if we can’t get them back to the treeline before they start cutting figure eights.
If council’s proposed rescue of Gwyn’s is singling out favorite Snowmass Village residents for special treatment, this is a horrendous action. If it is intended to be a potential benefit for all Snowmass Village businesses, the idea is even worse.
If we allow our government to enact some sort of legislation that makes it difficult or impossible to remove long-lived, beloved local businesses from their leased business spaces, it could be the end of long-lived, beloved business in the village.
It works something like this: Commercial landlords who have millions of dollars invested in their properties do not want to lose control over those properties, and will do whatever it takes to protect those properties’ values.
If we pass a law that says something to the extent that any Snowmass Village business that has operated in its leased space for more than say, 20 years, guess what is going to happen in year 19 of the lease? The landlord is not going to renew that business’s lease. They will be much better off with a new tenant while maintaining control over the use of that space.
Think of a village property that is occupied by a tenant that the law says can never be kicked out. The owner of that space may have a really tough time selling that property. I am not the sharpest inside edge on the slalom ski, but one thing I am fairly sure of is that a tenant that cannot be removed from a space has the upper hand in lease negotiations on that space.
The fact that we are seriously talking about this proposal and sticking our government’s nose into other people’s business might even be enough to scare away some potential investment in the village. This contemplated legislation makes an Aspen land-use application look like a sane proposition.
George and Gwyn, you guys are the best. You have contributed to the Snowmass, and by extension, the Aspen communities in countless meaningful ways. Both of you will as assuredly as it is deservedly be honored in the local Hall of Fame, if you are not already.
With this in mind, I hope you will see asking Town Council to step back from this issue as a way to serve this community and future generations of local entrepreneurs, as you both have become the benchmark. We need to call a stop to this madness that is being waged on your behalf that could ruin prospects of a long business life for future businesses in the village.
Roger Marolt thinks Town Council should take more time off and use its nose to smell the roses. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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