ASPEN - With a 3-1 vote during a special meeting last April, the Aspen City Council voted to limit building heights of future projects in the downtown area to 28 feet.
At the time, and perhaps still today, a majority of council members were concerned about the rise in development applications calling for three-story structures with a free-market housing component at the top. There was a fear that expensive penthouses, to be sold to part-time residents, were solely driving the local real estate market, and Mayor Mick Ireland and others wanted to put a temporary stop to it.
Since that decision, some of the city's Community Development Department staffers have been working on possible options that would allow developments to rise above the 28-foot limit. Those options will be presented to council members at Monday's regular meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. in the basement of City Hall at 130 S. Galena St.
"From staff's perspective, three-story buildings should be permitted in the downtown," a memorandum to the council from long-range planner Jessica Garrow states. "They are consistent with Aspen's historic built environment and part of good urban form."
At the same time, the department believes that there are downtown locations where three stories are inappropriate, the memo says.
Also, rooftop mechanical equipment can represent an additional "façade" of a building, Garrow wrote, but careful design can help ensure that the visibility of rooftop items from the street is minimized.
Options for the city's downtown area, which could spark discussion tonight and at future meetings, include the following:
• A 13-foot minimum first-floor height in the Commercial Core District and 11 feet in the Commercial-1 District just east of the core.
• A 38- to 40-foot overall maximum height in the Commercial Core District and a 36- to 38-foot limit in the Commercial-1 District.
• Only allow free-market residences on landmark properties.
• Only allow one free-market unit of as much as 2,000 square feet on landmark properties.
• Only allow one free-market unit of as much as 2,000 square feet on any property.
• Only allow free-market residential units when equal amounts of affordable housing are provided on-site.