Call to arms for homeowners | AspenTimes.com

Call to arms for homeowners

Abigail EagyeAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN A packed house cried foul Monday night as the City Council began taking public comment on plans to regulate the pace of residential development in Aspen.The city’s first draft of legislation to regulate the pace of construction includes a lottery system to apply for building permits, a tactic the public claimed would devalue homes or make them completely unmarketable relative to houses that have already been redeveloped.The council hardly discussed details of the legislation. Rather, it listened to repeated calls to abandon including residential development in the discussion because it would place an undue burden on people who bought their homes in the ’70s but haven’t yet redeveloped them.Arguments against the proposal ranged from a desire to finish projects already under way to fears that the proposal would achieve the opposite of its intended result, bringing about a rush of development rather than stemming the tide.But for those who own older homes that haven’t been redeveloped, many of whom are senior citizens whose homes are their only financial asset, the fear is that a lottery will create a disparity between their homes and those that have been redeveloped.If potential buyers know they have to get in line to redevelop, they likely will pass over older homes in disrepair in favor of those that have already been redeveloped, the argument goes.County Assessor Tim Isaac, a disabled resident who owns an aging home himself, agreed. Although reluctant to make any firm predictions, he suspected that the proposed lottery system would create two tiers of homes, those that have been redeveloped and those that have not. He fears that longtime retirement-aged residents who haven’t redeveloped will be saddled with high assessments but without the ability to sell the property.The regular cycle of busy years and quiet years likely will control the overall pace of development, he said, and creating permanent legislation to regulate it “is not necessary.”Local developer and former City Councilman Tim Semrau argued that even having residential development on the table directs the public’s attention away from the larger issues on the commercial and lodging side of the issue.Semrau called the past year a “perfect storm of construction stress,” with Highway 82 under construction and work to make sidewalks handicapped-accessible, as well as construction for the Sanitation District, the Burlingame Ranch housing project and the new middle school.”When the public works pile up on normal construction, we can’t take it,” he said.Semrau generated applause when he proposed dropping the residential portion of the legislation and focusing on large-scale developments, including public projects such as affordable housing development.Several younger citizens spoke out against pacing residential development as well, saying that the opportunity to redevelop older homes might be their only chance for buying into the Aspen market. One woman said she bought an older home and simply must rebuild because it is in too great a state of disrepair.The proposed draft also includes a priority system for three-time losers in the lottery to move to the head of the line to apply for building permits.But that would just create a backlog of people entitled to apply for permits, predicted local attorney Gideon Kaufman, and several others agreed.Bert Myrin, another local attorney, was the lone dissenter in the conversation. He supported the idea of a lottery to apply for permits and said most of the people who spoke against the idea were “selling out.””What’s important to me are some of the people who have just moved into the community because they bought a teardown,” he said. “There’s some value to keeping that low end of the market.”Ultimately, several council members reminded the public that the legislation was only a draft to give focus to a discussion.”The purpose is not to cut your throats,” said Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss. “There’s substantial impetus to control construction.”DeVilbiss said he couldn’t take the draft off the table for discussion, but he did support sweeping changes. “As far as I’m concerned, the legislation is going to get a complete vetting,” he said.DeVilbiss also said he couldn’t support an emergency ordinance to pass new legislation and that he thinks public projects should be included in any pacing controls.Mayor Helen Klanderud and Councilman Jack Johnson agreed that an emergency ordinance was not in order.Klanderud and DeVilbiss stressed that they would like to see the residential component addressed as soon as possible to give some relief to those it would affect in the immediate future.The council will continue to take public comment at a work session today, as well as begin discussions on growth management legislation, time permitting.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com

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