Plan aims to make Aspen ‘business friendly’
Ryan Summerlin February 10, 2013
ASPEN – A resolution that the Aspen City Council will be asked to approve Monday aims to make city government more business friendly.
The resolution outlines recent direction the council has provided to the Community Development Department. Approval of the resolution will pave the way for future changes to the city’s land-use code that will give that policy direction the force of law.
“The objective of the proposed code amendments is to make changes to the land-use code that eliminate or hinder business growth while preserving the overall feel of the code and the previous policy directions from council,” a recent department memorandum to council members says.
The resolution, and subsequent code changes, assists council members with a goal they identified at a retreat last summer: to make the city more business friendly.
“As part of this goal, the (department) examined the land-use code to determine if there were any changes that could be made to erase hindrances to businesses within the code language,” the memo states. “Staff identified some obvious changes that could be made.”
For example, the department suggests that language in the code intended to keep “big-box stores” out of the city limits, probably written in the 1980s, be deleted. Of course, the city hasn’t switched gears – it’s not seeking to encourage a Walmart or Target from developing an outlet in Aspen.
“Staff believes that this language is obsolete and no longer fits the current business environment in Aspen,” the memo says. “It was originally intended to exclude big-box stores from opening and to preserve local businesses. The real estate market, however, has effectively taken care of that problem on its own, and in fact there are currently several businesses that are locally owned that don’t fit this section of the code.”
The resolution also tweaks technical definitions for three types of businesses – “brewery,” “coffee-roasting facility” and “design studio” – so as not to keep certain businesses from being compliant with city regulations.
Also, the current code contains a provision that all restaurants must have direct alley access for deliveries. The problem, according to the memo, is that restaurants are singled out for different treatment: Other businesses also might receive several deliveries per week. And new commercial developments might not provide adequate access for deliveries.
“Therefore, we are looking at modifying the code to make all new development provide for alley access for all of their tenants,” the memo states.
Community Development, in cooperation with other city departments, also is looking at non-regulatory ways of making Aspen more business-friendly, including the creation of:
• A welcome package for new businesses.
• Combined and/or discounted fees for new businesses.
• A portion of the city’s website specifically crafted to the needs of new small businesses.
• A business-mentoring program.
• Potential staff changes necessary to properly service city initiatives that assist businesses.