Aspen wants to increase court fines
July 15, 2013
The Aspen City Attorney's Office has a proposal that calls for the maximum fine for municipal-ordinance violations to be increased from $1,000-$2,650.
Municipal-code violations typically cover a host of minor offenses, from public urination and running a noisy club to petty theft and trespassing — and much more. The concept of a higher maximum fine will be introduced to the Aspen City Council at today's meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. at 130 S. Galena St. A public hearing on the issue likely will be set for July 22.
In a recent memorandum to the council members, assistant city attorney Deborah Quinn wrote that Aspen, because of its home rule charter, has the ability to set its own fines and penalties for violation of local ordinances.
Municipal Court Judge Brooke Peterson has imposed the maximum $1,000 fine only rarely, Quinn wrote. But the judge would like for Aspen to have the ability to impose the same maximum fine for city ordinance violations as statutory municipalities, which can go up to $2,650 thanks to a law passed by the state General Assembly earlier this year.
The requested change, she wrote, "would give the City Attorney's Office the ability to request such a fine in an appropriate case and would authorize the judge to impose it, if and when an appropriate case might ever arise. The decision on its use would be for the judge to make."
The introductory ordinance also seeks to raise the maximum fine further, once a year, by adjusting it for inflation.
In other business, the council — which has three new members and a new mayor — will take up the first major development proposal of the current council cycle, which began June 10 and runs for two years.
A public hearing will be held tonight on ASV Aspen Street Owners' plan to build 14 free-market residential units and 10 affordable-housing units on three parcels of land on South Aspen Street near Deane and Gilbert streets.
The developer — which last year unsuccessfully pitched to the former council a mixed-use project with a hotel and free-market residential components — already has city approval for 31 multifamily units at the location: 14 free-market and 17 affordable-housing units. After it appeared that council members wanted the project to be scaled down, the developer withdrew the application, saying the only way to make a new hotel economically feasible in Aspen would be to build it to a certain size.
The city Planning and Zoning Commission and the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority have recommended approval of the new plans for the land, but the city's Community Development Department has suggested that the council require more affordable housing on the site.