| AspenTimes.com

Auden Schendler: What happens in Basalt stays in Basalt

 


If what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, what about Basalt? We deserve a (slightly less seedy) slogan. How about: “What happens in Basalt is happening everywhere else?”

This is certainly true around housing development. Understanding what’s going on, and how it’s consistent with other mountain-town experience, informs how we ought to set policy, and pressingly, what could happen at the proposed new development on the Clark’s parcel. Which is another way of saying: As a washed-up town councilman, I couldn’t help but weigh-in. (Sorry!)

We all know that rents and real-estate prices have exploded. Good luck even finding a house if you want to buy; if you do, prices will be astronomical. The same is true for rentals. Local businesses have always struggled to house lower-wage workers. But now, even newly hired executives can’t find a place to live, with rates often three times what they can afford. Why?

Most of us understand the COVID-related exodus from cities. But Basalt has other factors at play. One is Airbnb, which distorts the market in three ways: It increases rents across the board and makes long-term rental contracts far less attractive; it takes seasonal or longer-duration housing off market, further increasing rents through scarcity; and it increases sales prices because the potential revenue from Airbnb gets baked in.

Another factor is the second-home market. A house that’s occupied only during holidays is off the market for the pod of twenty-something snowboard instructors who used to live in ski towns. The price of what’s left goes up — Economics 101.

This is not to blame second-home owners or those who choose to list on Airbnb—these folks, who are our friends and neighbors, often add more community than full-time residents by hosting gatherings, populating the streets with happy kids, patronizing our shops, and eagerly building community. They’re just doing what’s sensible for their own financial security and quality of life. This is really about how a town like Basalt chooses to govern itself; it’s about the policies we pass, and the nature of the developments we approve.

Good policies abound. Limits on short-term rentals are the most obvious solution, already in place in Killington, Vermont, and under discussion in Vail, Boulder, Frisco, Steamboat, Aspen and Telluride. Such policies allow homeowners to Airbnb their homes, but not all the time, ensuring that aggregate short-term revenues are equal or less than income from long-term rentals. By leveling the playing field, this approach addresses housing scarcity, plus the fact that residential neighborhoods are becoming commercial ones, altering town zoning unintentionally. Communities can address high rents by creating incentives for affordable leases — a commensurate property tax break, for example. Fee waivers for mother-in-law apartments or policies that limit, tax, or encourage rental of second-homes are other wins.

This brings us to the proposed development at Clark’s. P&Z approved it, and most comments were about look and community fit. But this shouldn’t be about size or shape or massing — indeed, that location is exactly where we should add height and density.

Instead, the conversation should be about what sorts of units we need for the good of the community. Yes, a supermarket would be a major amenity, while also reducing traffic. But above it, the developer proposes mostly free-market condos. The selling point for the units: more vibrancy.

Has anyone been downtown lately? You have to enter a lottery to get a Manhattan at Tempranillo. And there’s more to come at the Tree Farm, the Fields, and the river park. This is great!

But vibrancy requires not just customers, but also a place to house the people who serve them, take them fishing, and provide basic service like firefighting and policing. We’ve tipped too far in the other direction. What we need are affordable rental units that backfill the needs of local workers. If done right, these new units won’t represent growth as much as a rebalancing of valley housing in a way that reduces traffic and fosters community.

Basalt should require that at least half — and preferably far more — of the proposed units are deed-restricted affordable rentals. Minimum lease requirements of six months or more would address the Airbnb problem — otherwise, for better or worse, we’re approving a hotel, not a residential project. In short, the town should work with the developer so that they make a profit, but still allocate far more than the minimum number of affordable units (15%) that they’ve proposed. If they walk, fine.

This is the best parcel in town. It’s true that few have even looked at the thing in over a decade, and undoing the blight that it has become would be beneficial. But times are changing, and residential projects are much more valuable. We shouldn’t default to the least creative cash crop. I’d like to see housing for people working in the community. Gonzo at the liquor store dreams of a European Mercado. But what’s proposed currently isn’t worth it. Even an abandoned supermarket is, at least, a painful reminder that we can do better.

Auden Schendler is a former Basalt town councilman and lives in town.

 

Roses and Thorns (June 11, 2021): Yea, Snowmass concerts are back; boo, for CO Ski Country’s lack of transparency

A thorn goes to Aspen police officers who continuously do laps around the downtown core in their patrol cars, morning, noon and night. It adds to congestion, pollution and does not embody the environmental ethos that the city of Aspen touts. How about park it and walk around and talk to people while patrolling? You know, the old school, Aspen way.

*****

The local Starbucks took a pubic beating for its abysmal service after it opened the Cooper Avenue mall in September 2018, but they deserve roses these days for having a smooth-running machine. Even the canines of The Aspen Times can attest — the complimentary Puppuccinos are the crack cocaine of dog treats. So Roses for Starbucks and its hardworking crew, and a howl of approval from the dogs.

****

A rose to the city of Aspen and its elected officials for allowing temporary structures to be placed in the right of way this summer. It’s really nice to dine al fresco during these warm nights and gives tourists and locals some extra room to enjoy the scene. It also gives local restaurants a boost, and after the crap they’ve had to endure with COVID-19 restrictions, they deserve it.

****

Roses to the folks in Snowmass Village who were able to really kick off the summer season with the return of the Thursday night concert series. Talk about a turnout. It was almost like we’ve been pent up in our pads for the better part (or is it worse part?) of the past year and a half.

As the restrictions have eased, the concert organizers kicked into high gear and set up the stage, secured the bands and put in a few new features to help the crowds, … and the crowd Thursday night was totally into it.

We are jazzed for the Snowmass gondola and lift as well as the bike park to open June 21 and rodeo to saddle up June 23. Great to have those and the host of other events that make Snowmass the quaint place we all know and love. Heck, Thursday’s opener was such a big-time event a larger contingent of Aspenites made the bus/drive over.

****

Thorns to Colorado Ski Country USA for a confusing approach in recent years to releasing information about how its members fared the prior ski season. Colorado Ski Country has been quick to trumpet successes when there have been record or near-record seasons. The trade association clammed up after last season’s abrupt closure of ski areas because of COVID-19. The public never learned how bad the resorts were collectively hit by the pandemic. National Ski Areas Association announced this week that the U.S. ski resorts recorded their fifth best season ever in 2020-21. Aspen Skiing Co. said its numbers fell about 4%. Colorado Ski Country has its annual business meeting, via Zoom this year, on June 22. Let’s hope they share how their members fared this year so the public can assess how one of the state’s most important industries is faring.

****

Thorns to the two hikers who got themselves into a jam last Saturday afternoon at Lost Man Lake. While we certainly acknowledge that nature can be unpredictable, these two women didn’t do themselves any favors. They put themselves in a position where they needed help at Lost Man Lake at an elevation of 12,457 at 4:45 in the afternoon. We don’t know if they got a late start or got lost or otherwise sidetracked. Nevertheless, they should have been aware that rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast starting mid-afternoon and they should have acted accordingly. The news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said the women were “inadequately prepared for the hike and changing conditions.”

We hope this isn’t a sign of things to come during what is anticipated to be a busy summer. Regardless, it is a good reminder to locals and visitors to purchase their Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card, also known as CORSAR. They are $3 for one year or $12 for a five-year card.

Elizabeth Milias: The Burlingame bombshell


The city of Aspen has many responsibilities to its citizens, but being a developer is not one of them. This doesn’t mean the city doesn’t build plenty. It does, but it shouldn’t.

The capital asset management department is currently up to its eyeballs completing the Taj Mahal City Hall and has just broken ground on Burlingame Phase 3. City-as-developer is likely the most hypocritical yet most cherished of all city functions, primarily because the city can build what it wants, where it wants, with your money and without responsibility.

Today, Burlingame Phase 2 is mired in legal wrangling as the subsidized housing development literally crumbles. Built between 2014 and 2017, the 82 units were developed under a city contract with Haselden Construction and R.A. Nelson as builders. Problems started immediately when the exterior stain on the buildings started coming off, exposing the bare wood to Aspen’s extreme elements. Turns out, the exterior wood used was not to code and resulted in insufficient protection for the application.

To its credit, for a time, under a four-year warranty deal with the builders, the city began addressing the reported issues. However, with three city representatives on the five-member HOA board, the cost of re-staining the entire complex with proper material was abruptly shifted from a city-funded capital improvement to a yearly operating expense for the new homeowners.

In response, the homeowners got an independent analysis that concluded that the wrong wood and materials were indeed utilized for the project. This prompted the city to offer a quick $125,000 for fixes, as long as the city could dictate how the money was used and it was released from all future liability. Wisely, the homeowners declined. Due to the makeup of the board, however, there was no will to go after the city-as-developer for comprehensive construction defect damages. The city-dominated board refused to approve a claim against itself.

When the right of the city to control the HOA expired, the board was restructured and assumed the right to proceed independently. This is when the HOA hired a renowned construction defect attorney who brought in Denver counterparts to pursue the mounting construction defect issues as claims against the city of Aspen. Multiple forensic analyses of myriad construction defects, some known and others discovered, were compiled, and the resultant estimate to address the construction defects at Burlingame 2 approached $8 million, including the lawyers’ fees. (The case was taken on contingency because the subsidized housing HOA is in no financial position to retain counsel.) The city has recently offered the HOA $175,000, ostensibly to go away.

In addition to the exterior stain issues, which subject the exteriors of the buildings to fading and deterioration, other major quality of life and life safety problems exist, including the installation of an “open-loop” system where domestic drinking water and fan coils is one and the same, which is not NSF rated, the solar heating system was widely installed on low-slope roofs, creating twice the heat thereby melting the system, causing leaks and ice dams, and has resulted in numerous ceiling collapses, and the water pressure regulation valves (PRVs) are designed for “constant flow” commercial use but were installed in a residential, low-flow environment. The decks were designed and constructed with bolts that make for flimsy connections (unsafe for children) and the exterior fire alarm pull stations outside of every unit feature modules specifically rated for inside use, causing regular false alarms and widespread malfunctioning. And to add insult to injury, the coaxial cable was so damaged upon its installation that Comcast has indicated that it will, at some point, no longer provide service to Burlingame 2 unless this is replaced. The list is extensive.

Claiming “governmental immunity,” the city is seeking to avoid all responsibility for the massive problems at Burlingame 2 despite being the developer. The construction defect case is currently on hold while the courts determine whether or not the city-as-developer can be held responsible for the countless problems the forensic auditors identified. Last fall, Pitkin County District Court Judge Denise Lynch sided with the city in its immunity claim, but that case is now in Denver on appeal.

There is no legal precedent for challenging a government entity acting as developer in a construction defect case, so this is likely to go on for years. Regardless of whether the city has a legal case, this is an outrage and so patently wrong. We all know that the city is a lousy developer. Everything they build is a disaster, and not just a financial one. But for our local government to build defective housing and sell it to local workers and working families, and then claim immunity from responsibility for blatant construction defects, is shameful, unconscionable and a community embarrassment.

How can Aspen continue to support elected representatives who condone both the mismanagement and oversight of public construction projects and the resulting mistreatment and disrespect of its affected citizens? It’s time for city council to direct the city manager and city attorney to settle this case, and to cease all future city-as-developer activities.

When non-builders build, the results are predictable.The BG2 fix won’t be pretty, but it’s the right thing to do. Contact TheRedAntEM@comcast.net

 

Guest commentary: People deserve to know about the health effects of 5G and EMFs

There are zero studies that prove that 5G is safe for our health. During a federal Senate hearing, the representatives of the telecom industry also communicated that there were no future plans to conduct any independent 5G safety studies.

Currently there is a federal case against the Federal Communications Commission charging that the safety standards that were tested for 1G are still being applied 24 years later to 5G without being updated.

The facts are, more than 10,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies demonstrate harm to human health from radio frequency (RF) radiation. Some effects include: insomnia, headaches and head pressure; ringing of the ears; nausea, stomach pains, digestive problems and fatigue; learning and memory deficits, brain fog, and dizziness; depression, anxiety, and mood changes; skin rashes, aches and pains; obesity and diabetes; heart palpations and cardiovascular disease; and cancers.

Effects in children include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and asthma.

Organs that may be affected are the eyes, kidneys, heart, and immune system.

Unfortunately, the majority of medical doctors are unaware of the effects of EMFs, and EMS (electromagnetic sensitivity) and some may misdiagnose their patients as having a mental problem or other illnesses. Because of this, it is imperative that the public take responsibility for their own health and become educated about EMFs and 5G.

The impact of EMFs and 5G go well beyond humans. There is massive evidence of harm to diverse plant and wildlife and laboratory animals, including birds, honeybees, mammals, mice, plants and trees. Messing around with nature is dangerous.

Our food supply may also be affected because insects, microbes and other components of the soil may be disrupted and/or damaged.

Some people say the millimeter wave technology of 5G is not that dangerous because it does not generate a lot of heat. However, research shows that this technology alters the cell membrane and is damaging.

International scientific professionals have taken a stand on 5G. As of May 3, 2021, there are 300,544 signatures from 214 nations and territories that have signed an International Appeal to STOP 5G on Earth and in Space. This appeal has been sent to the UN, WHO, EU, Council of Europe and governments of all nations.

The signatures to this appeal are scientists, medical doctors. health professionals, and environmental organizations that have been working tirelessly for many years to call the world’s attention to an invisible assault on our biosphere. That assault can no longer be ignored.

They stated: “The 5th generation of wireless technology must not be built on Earth or in space. The notion that radio-frequency radiation, commonly known as radio waves, is somehow not real radiation and is harmless, was disproven by the 1970s in laboratories all over the world, and the harm to humans, animals and plants has since been confirmed in over 10,000 peer-reviewed studies. If 5G is built, radiation levels will increase 10- to 100-fold, virtually overnight, everywhere. There will literally be no place on Earth to hide from it.”

In 2015, 215 scientists from 41 countries communicated their alarm to the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO). They stated that “numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF (electromagnetic fields) affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.”

These scientists have called for a moratorium on the roll-out of 5G until there has been a full investigation by independent scientists to find out what the full impacts of this technology will have on our environment and humans.

One of the biggest challenges is that it seems the FCC is a captured agency by the telecom industry. This agency exists to protect us, but unfortunately, it appears the FCC has been infiltrated and is now controlled by industries who are more concerned about profit than they are about our health.

As of this date, there are no safety studies addressing the impacts of what 5G technology will have on us 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 365 days per year.

This could be one of the biggest health disasters of all time.

More information at:

• Environmental Health Trust, EHTrust.org

• International Appeal: Stop 5G on Earth and in Space,

• 5gspaceappeal.org/the-appeal

• Colorado for Safe Technology, CO4SafeTech.com

Tom Lankering and Kathleen Fors are local health professionals doing a monthly series on 5G networks for The Aspen Times. They also are members of Colorado for Safe Technology. For more information, go to http://www.Co4safetech.com.

 

Kudos & Kindness (Feb. 7, 2021)

A toast to Mac Smith

Like so many devotees of Aspen Highlands and its iconic Bowl, I wanted to add this old fart’s two-cents to Scott Condon’s fitting tribute to Mac Smith on his retirement as director of Highland Ski Patrol (“Mac Smith turns over the reins of Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol,” Feb. 2, The Aspen Times).

What a remarkable legacy this gentle giant leaves for all who love the vertical playground he was so instrumental in protecting, preserving and most importantly, expanding. I was lucky enough to poach the Bowl with the patrol on the 10th anniversary of the deadly slide to write an article for Aspen Magazine the year before the bowl was reopened and another about skiing Five Fingers, just beyond the Bowl, with Chris Davenport and Dick Jackson a few years later. My bride, Christine, and I worked as mountain mascots (ambassadors) at Highlands for seven years and could always count on Mac being our first guest at the annual Ski Tuner’s Ball during its 30-year reign.

Mac’s remarkable vision and dedication has provided our valley with a unique monument to the sport of skiing. A tip of the hat and vote of gratitude to the big guy with the broad smile and big heart from two of your biggest fans.

Christine and Gerry Goldstein

Aspen

***

High praise for Ajax groomers

The skiing on Aspen Mountain is amazing! A special shout-out to the people who groom the mountain. Thank you.

Rob Gile

Aspen

***

Aspen generosity shines through

The generosity of our community continues to amaze us. Pathfinders is an organization that helps people with cancer and other debilitating illnesses. One of our programs is to bring meals to people while they are in treatment and recovering.

Nancy Paley and Lisa Lambert have generously started a program that helps not only us but the restaurants. They have given gift certificates from restaurants for us to use for our clients. Our clients are thrilled and it is helping our restaurants — a win -win. We are so grateful.

With gratitude for being part of such a great community …

Allison Daily and Debbie Kreutzer

Pathfinders

***

Molding character, one buddy at a time

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg

It has been almost a year since I became a big buddy and what a journey it has been! My little buddy and I have gotten to know each other while playing tennis and soccer, making pizza, playing chess, attending a pottery class, making a kite, launching a rocket, reading/discussing “A Little History of the World,” ice skating, and car singing Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga,” all while maintaining safety protocols during the pandemic.

I know from personal experience how important and enriching is to have a mentor in one’s life. After graduating college in Sofia, Bulgaria, I embarked on a long journey that eventually let me to Aspen. Throughout my journey, mentors inspired me to keep learning, stay disciplined and focused, and always purse my dreams. These mentors have shaped my character, helped me grow, and enabled me to learn a lot about myself. Through my experience, I learned how important is to give back and inspire others to be their best selves.

Now more than ever before, staying connected is instrumental in our lives. Becoming a mentor has positively impacted my life. I am so thankful for the professionalism and support of the Buddy Program team and for the smooth application process. They made my experience great and I feel extremely grateful to be part of the program. I hope that sharing my experience will inspire people to learn more about the Buddy Program and help positively impact and shape children’s lives.

Vangel Yurukov

Snowmass Village

***

Aspen Chapel Gallery thanks supporters, helps Holiday Baskets

The Aspen Chapel Gallery wishes to thank everyone who patronized the annual holiday Small Wonders show. Through sales at the gallery and the sponsorships, we were able to give Holiday Baskets over $3,700 to help with their goal of providing gifts and food for over 250 families.

We also would like to thank our sponsors who made the show possible. The Big Wrap, Aspen Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty, Hensley & James Peterson, Sam and Peter Louras, Barbara Reid and David Hyman, Jessica Salet, and Alice Davis

Finally, thank you to the 29 participating artists whose creative efforts made such a unique and delightful show.

Tom Ward and Michael Bonds

Co-directors, Aspen Chapel Gallery

‘No Truth No More’

To make things true you just gotta believe

Any theory anybody, anywhere might conceive

Though it ain’t worth a dime, if it kinda makes cents

Lots of folks’ll come to its defense

You know, like Margie Green; ya gotta love’r

Her mom and dad are sister and brother

Well, that’s not for sure, but why not?

A lie told well won’t never be forgot

Just keep sayin’ it over and over again

Louder and more and never give in

Margie’s mom and dad are sister and brother

That’s the truth; it is — ain’t no other

Patience and persistence is all it takes

Till nobody knows what’s truth and what’s fakes

‘Specially if ya don’t believe in no science

Then, who needs truth, or factual compliance

Or evidence or data or info or logic

Just deny anything that’s at all pedagogic

Make it up as you go along

Say it loud and often and say it strong

And what you get is the party of Lincoln

Craven and dumb, without no thinkin’

Greg Lewis

Woody Creek

Solis family grateful for community outpouring

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank infinitely all those wonderful people that showed their love to my nephew Alex, making very generous donations to help with the funeral costs and other associated expenses.

Really we don’t have words to express our gratitude because it’s been an enormous help to the wife and children.

These actions show us one more time the love and relation that we have with many people, no matter their religion, color or sex, who show us their love in this way.

God bless you greatly to all of you.

Jose Solis

Quiero aprovechar este espacio para agradecer infinitamente a todas aquellas personas que mostraron su cariño a mi sobrino Alex haciendo muy generosas donaciones para ayudar a los costos del funeral y gastos asociados. Realmente no tenemos palabras para expresar nuestro agradecimiento, ya que ha sido de una gran ayuda para la esposa e hijos.

Esto nos demuestra una vez más el cariño y la relación que tenemos con mucha gente sin importar su religion, color o sexo, y que nos mostró su amor de esta manera.

Dios les bendiga grandemente a todos ustedes.

José Solís

Doyle has Aspen’s big picture in mind

While an election is the last thing anyone wants to think about, an important race for two Aspen City Council seats is coming up March 2. I will be giving my support to John Doyle. No matter what issues come to council, I know John will research them thoroughly and have a solid understanding.

John is a 40-year local and has seen our small town change. John is willing to step into the difficult position of being on City Council. Preserving Aspen’s small-town character for the local people who live here and most importantly for our children. Beyond our community, we all know Aspen is unique and special because it’s nestled below seven 14ers and surrounded by three wilderness areas.

John understands people come to visit and live here because of the environment. Preserving and protecting our most precious resource from unnecessary development, keeping our workforce close and supporting small local businesses in the right locations will be more important than special interests or short-term gains.

John has vast personal work experience to understand our local economy. John Doyle would be a tremendous asset to Aspen as a calm, thoughtful intelligent voice on City Council.

Pierre Wille

Aspen

Overreaction to pandemic erodes freedoms, economy

You would think this is the black plague. In 1918 with the Spanish Flu, the death toll was about 50 million. However, the population was 1.6 billion. That worked out to 3.125%. The total current world population is about 7.8 billion, which means even a death count of 2 million is only 0.0002564%. The data is by no means justifiable to destroy the world economy and eliminate all our freedoms.

Tom Anderson

Aspen Village

Red level reveals white privilege

The following public letter is to Snowmass Mayor Bill Madsen and Garfield and Hecht attorney Chris Bryan.

I am very disturbed to read the comments you both made or wrote at the recent Pitkin County Board of Health meeting. While I understand your intentions to support the restaurants, how you went about it I found appalling. I hope as influential representatives of Pitkin County that you shocked yourselves, as well as everyone who heard you comparing racism to the board’s decisions. Regardless of whether you agree with the board’s choices, racism has no place in your arguments.

Chris Bryan, using a Martin Luther King Jr. quote that was meant to wake white people up to their part in systemic racism to pressure the board to do what you feel is right for your clients, is abhorrent. Bill Madsen, likening the murder of George Floyd at the hands of white racist policemen to the board’s treatment of the restaurants, I found viscerally disturbing.

Giving you both the benefit of the doubt, at best your comments reek of white privilege and white superiority. I pray it was deep ignorance and callused insensitivity to systemic racism and police brutality and not conscious racism.

I sincerely hope you will both take this opportunity to educate yourselves and do much better going forward. I’m currently reading Ibram X. Kendi’s book “How to Be an Antiracist” in my continued quest to wrestle with my own role in white supremacy and systemic racism, as a white woman. I just purchased the book from Explore Booksellers for each of you. I will drop them off personally to you this week, so you know that I mean you no ill will, just a deep hope from my heart to yours that we all want to learn and improve.

Sheridan Semple

Aspen