Aspen White Shirts fight ‘development mania’
ASPEN – The “We Love Aspen” White Shirts are not a one-night stand.The White Shirts spontaneously coalesced Monday night in response to a letter to the editor from Les Holst regarding overdevelopment. The loose group plans to push its agenda until it becomes part of the city’s philosophy, according to group guru/nonleader Holst.”We are not going away,” Holst said Wednesday.In the letter, Holst called for Aspen’s “silent majority” to come together at Monday’s City Council meeting to ” … let them know there really are people here who care about this community. Let them know that the Aspen history and historic presence is what drives both the living community and the commercial-tourist presence also.”
Holst, who has lived in Aspen for 20 years, considered the letter a challenge to people who are sick and tired of all the construction within the city. About 40 people showed up.In preparation for the council meeting, Holst ordered 150 “We love Aspen” T-shirts from a company in Denver. The T-shirts arrived two days later – just in time for Monday’s council meeting. Holst said he has already given away 75 of those shirts, and he has ordered 200 more in preparation for what he says is a large grass-roots movement ready to go toe to toe with a City Council he says has “no evident passion” or “moral rudder” for its job.”This City Council never has had a basis for making their decisions,” Holst said. “There are a lot of us who hate what they are allowing to happen in this city we love.”
The White Shirts want, among other things, the city to establish a six-month moratorium on building permits in all historic areas and not hire any new employees for a year. Ann Wycoff, a psychologist who has lived in Aspen off and on for 30 years, sadi she could have the group’s Web site – http://www.iloveaspen.org – running by Monday.”It’s been hard to watch the changes that have occurred here in the last 30 years,” Wycoff said. “This used to be a town of activists, but a lot of the activists have moved downvalley. We need to provide a focal point and energy for a new generation of activists in Aspen.””I think there are more people who are opposed to the development mania here than who support it. We need to give those people a voice,” she said.
Among the most high-profile members of the group is former Mayor Bill Stirling.Stirling said the group will focus on six things: balancing the goals of the town with the goals of the resort, preserving all Victorian architecture no matter how much it has been changed, reducing the size of government, maintaining and protecting the village scale, not over-reacting to pressure from developers, and always protecting and nurturing sense of community.”We aren’t going to take this any more,” Stirling said. “This is still one of the most wonderful places on earth, but, if we don’t act now to counter the actions of our city government and our development community, we are going to lose this place. I think we can save it. And I’m going to fight until we do.”Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado