In the coming weeks, the Aspen City Council will consider a code amendment aimed at streamlining parts of the land-use-approval process.
The amendment would allow for applicants to lock in major details — such as mass, scale and land use of a building — earlier in the process. This way, they could know sooner if the council and the community support their ideas.
“We have a very lengthy land-use process that is unpredictable for everyone involved,” said Jessica Garrow, long-range planner for the city. “And there are ways we can consolidate it and make it more predictable and fair.”
Right now, major details — such as height, floor-area dimensions and land use — are not ironed out until final review. With the amendment, those all would be moved up to conceptual review. The only details left for final review would be minor ones, such as utility specs and selection of building materials.
Councilman Adam Frisch said he’s not sure who is more frustrated with the current approval process, developers or city staff. The major problem, he said, is that the most controversial issues of a project are pushed to the end of the line in the process. With the amendment, it becomes a front-loaded discussion, where “the elephant in the room” can be addressed early on. The beneficiaries of such a change, he said, would be not only developers but residents, second-home owners and city staff, as well.
Some in the community have voiced concern that it would remove the public’s right to review a project between the conceptual and final stages.
But Garrow said the public’s right to review would not be affected, only the timing. With the amendment, public action simply would have to take place at the conceptual stage.
This issue, Garrow said, has been an important part of lodging discussions.
The current system costs “more time, money and effort on everyone’s part,” she said.
The code amendments, which are tentatively scheduled to go before the City Council in September, relate to the “Planned Unit Development” and “Specially Planned Area” chapters of the land-use code.