Paul Menter must be applauded for his tipping point column (Aspen Daily News, June 8). Paul has the courage, if few others do, to point out the absence of the City Council’s clothes. It seems that a qualification for public service in Aspen is to oppose development, wealth and rational economics. No single member of City Council is guilty; they all are.
Unfortunately, I chose to sit through a City Council meeting not long ago, waiting for the last agenda item of the night. I had the opportunity to observe a land owner who was making his first presentation to council about a proposed redevelopment. He brought his architect and two lawyers. Then I observed land owners appearing for the third time before the court, er council, seeking approval of redevelopment of two lots they had purchased in town. The land owners had brought their architect, designer, attorney and one or two other advisors to this, the third audience with the collective sovereign that is our City Council. The project had already been through staff review and staff had made a recommendation.
Rather than rely on professional staff, council started all over again, attempting on the spot to revise the architectural plans. No member of council bothered to proffer his architectural credentials; they don’t have to. They have the power and they love to use it. Of course, the land owners went away, again, without a resolution.
I have heard of a similar experience from a friend who owns property and has tried to implement an improvement. An Argentinean friend of mine decided not to buy investment property in Aspen when he found out how difficult, expensive and unpredictable the approval process can be here.
How many people are going to spend the time and money that our senseless process requires to invest in this city? Apparently, as Paul points out, not the people who would have built a first-class lodge at Lift 1A.
Competition is a nasty thing for a city. The ski industry is in decline, and there are many attractive resorts competing for visitors and investment. If it is too inconvenient to visit Aspen or invest in Aspen, bye-bye. The visitors and the investment will go elsewhere, and presumably some are right now. We are special but not that special.
Consider Aspen and Detroit. The similarity should scare us. Detroit was the queen of the auto industry, just as Aspen has been the Silver Queen of skiing. Detroit thought it was so special because it was the Motor City. The world could not survive without Detroit cranking out wheels for a growing America. But, little by little, Detroit and its state adopted policies that were unfriendly to investment and even to daily life. So the people and the investment went elsewhere. Many other examples can be identified of the phenomenon of know-it-all public officials killing the investment climate and leaving the wreckage for later generations. Fifty years from now, will residents of Vail, Telluride, Park City and other resorts tell jokes about the brilliant policies that killed Aspen? Never think it impossible.