The Aspen City Council has begun hammering out its top 10 goals for 2014-15, following last week’s annual retreat, where officials discussed de-emphasizing car use in Aspen, new housing guidelines and potential repurposing of real estate transfer tax funds, among other goal areas.
Also included in the city’s preliminary list of top 10 goal areas are: redoing Aspen’s pedestrian malls; potential partnerships with businesses in maintaining non-carbon/low-carbon vehicles; managing construction impacts; and increasing economic vitality. Three rollover goal areas from 2013-14 are the city’s contribution to Pitkin County Health and Human Services; a Facilities Master Plan; and a Climate Change Resiliency Plan.
During a Sept. 2 work session, the council is scheduled to discuss the following goal areas:
1. Downtown — The council has expressed interest in Fred Kent’s concept of converting streets into “places.” Work done at the Gondola Plaza intersection and outside the Wheeler Opera House, where there are rolling sidewalks, green spaces and other amenities, speak to that concept, Mayor Steve Skadron said.
2. Review of housing guidelines — The council will explore short-term rental options similar to Airbnb for Aspen’s homeowners; the ability to qualify for more bedrooms so families can “grow in place”; and definitions for what qualifies as income.
3. Redoing Aspen’s pedestrian malls — With electrical and infrastructure work on the malls expected to take place soon, the council is looking into other improvements, including offering more mall space for restaurants and restructuring traffic flows.
4. Managing construction impacts — Skadron said that the city’s passing of its lodge-incentive program may result in mass development. A number of large projects are coming down the pike, Skadron said, adding that as economic activity heats up, so does development.
5. Economic vitality/sustainability — The city is exploring making its service-industrial-commercial zoning areas — particularly at the North Mill Street Commercial Center — more flexible to allow a wider range of uses. Also included is the potential for establishing Aspen as a hub for uphill-skiing fitness and equipment, an idea Skadron has championed.
6. Wheeler Opera House real estate transfer tax fund repurposing — By 2023, funds dedicated to the Wheeler from the transfer tax are projected to show an ending balance in excess of $35 million. The council is exploring the idea of repurposing the funds into health, education and/or other areas. Any reallocation of the funds would be subject to public vote.
7. Health and Human Services funding — Though Pitkin County covers the majority of costs for Health and Human Services, the city makes discretionary donations. In recent years, Aspen has contributed around $300,000 annually. Whether it’s homeless aid, suicide prevention, substance-abuse assistance, child care, senior services or other areas of needs, the city will decide what role, if any, it wants to carry moving forward.
8. Facilities Master Plan — A rollover item from 2013-14, the Facilities Master Plan is a comprehensive look at the current uses and future needs of at least 16 municipal buildings and departments. Major properties in flux include the Aspen Police Department, City Hall and the old Aspen Art Museum.
9. Increase transportation options for non-carbon/low-carbon fuels — With the possibility of losing one of Aspen’s two gas stations, hotel properties have interest in acquiring electric vehicle fleets. In order to do that, they would need charging stations, so the city is exploring partnership opportunities.
10. Climate Change Resiliency Plan — Like the Facilities Master Plan, Skadron said this is a goal area the city has not completed. Councilman Adam Frisch said that if Aspen is going to continue to see short winters and longer summers, the city needs to prepare. It is less about green initiatives and more about contingency, he said.