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January 27, 2013
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The little people shouldn't know

Dear Editor:

Tonight, the Aspen City Council will consider Ordinances 1 and 34, 2013 series. One Ordinance would make it much harder or impractical to accomplish affordable-housing mitigation using an auxiliary dwelling unit. The other would drastically increase cash-in-lieu payments (fees charged for the privilege of building new real estate developments).

The two ordinances would affect not only commercial developments but also expansions or scrape-and-replace private-residence projects.

The Jan. 24 Aspen Times contained a guest opinion by Tim Semrau on the subject. Shockingly, these ordinances had received virtually no press coverage, and yet the ordinances would decimate the economics of projects from simple home expansions to substantial commercial developments. They would destroy property values. The only silver lining would be a reduction of property tax-assessed values.

Others will explain the negative effects of the proposals on our valley's economics. But this is about the city's disregard of the distinct prospect that the ordinances are flat-out illegal.

On Jan. 24, local attorney Joseph Edwards wrote an eight-page, single-spaced letter to the City Council explaining why the ordinances are illegal. (I can provide a copy if you contact me at mauriceemmer@gmail.com.) Numerous studies and memos explain the city's reasoning, but none even attempts to analyze the applicable law and justify the city's authority to adopt and enforce these revolutionary ordinances.

Accordingly, while Edwards' legal analysis is readily available explaining why the ordinances would exceed the city's authority, the city has not produced a legal analysis explaining why the city has the chutzpah, er, authority to do this as far as I know.

Edwards' letter explains why the ordinances would not be legal. Has the council received "the other side of the story" from its counsel? Would the council adopt the ordinances merely on the hope and prayer that they are legal?

Two possibilities come to mind: 1. The council has no such analysis but just plans to go for broke and enact the ordinances. 2. The analysis exists, but the council won't share it with the public.

In the latter case, the only reasons would be that either the analysis looks embarrassing next to Mr. Edwards' or council members know the ordinances would invite another unnecessary, lengthy and expensive litigation and don't want to admit it.

The public should insist that the City Council not radically rewrite the rules without fully disclosing all of its supporting analysis, including legal authority. If the council won't do that, we'll know it's hiding something ugly.

Maurice Emmer

Aspen


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The Aspen Times Updated Jan 28, 2013 07:18AM Published Jan 27, 2013 11:47PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.