A commissioner’s New Year’s wish
My New Year’s wish is that The Aspen Times sends Allyn Harvey back to journalism school. Over the years, as an appointed or elected official, I have written few letters to the editor. Yet the exception here is necessary, since Mr. Harvey has clearly lost sight of his role as a reporter. Consistently incorrect facts, observations tainted with subjectivity, omissions, redundant stories and a personalized agenda have been his “style” in “editorializing” the reporting of the Turnbull and Weiben land-use applications. That being the norm, I previously chose not to respond.Yet insulting me by stating Jack Hatfield needs to discover “there is an environment that needs protecting beyond the confines of Snowmass Village and Brush Creek” and I need to find an “environmental conscience” is the final straw. I apologize up front for the length of this letter, yet facts necessitate it. Facts pertinent to the Turnbull application:1. I am a countywide commissioner. My record clearly shows I have worked for the people and the land in every drainage in Pitkin County.Based on the feedback I receive on a countywide basis, I am doing a “great” job balancing the various responsibilities of being a commissioner, including, of course, protecting the environment and our quality of life. It’s a fact that I do not work for The Aspen Times … only the people and the land.2. The Turnbull application included five development rights, not four, as Mr. Harvey’s January article indicated.3. The BOCC never reviewed the Turnbull application; therefore the facts do not support Mr. Harvey’s assertion that I “approved their request to build four 15,000-square-foot houses.” Actually, a hearing officer granted the 1041 approval, per the criteria in the land-use code.4. Until, and if, the land-use code changes, one development right per 500 acres seems to be an acceptable trade-off in balancing property rights with protection of the environment. State law allows subdivision of land at one development right for 35 acres. Seems like the public gained a huge environmental benefit when measuring the results against what state law allows.5. Yes, Farris, Harper and Hatfield exempted the Turnbulls from housing mitigation and granted 20-year vesting. If the landowner wants to change their approvals and further subdivide, the previous approvals go away and a new land-use application, under the then-current land-use code, must be submitted. Are not the current results of the Turnbull approval analogous to leaving a large amount of land undeveloped without having to spend public money? Seems environmentally sound to me.6. Regardless of whether a property owner is a working class family who wants to do a remodel, or a billionaire, I will review their application relative to the merit of the request, not on how rich they are.Concerning the Wieben land-use code amendment allowing TDR’s to supplement the Growth Management Quota System (GMQS), Mr. Harvey again fails in his role as an objective reporter, for the following reasons:1. The Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the amendment.2. The Community Development staff recommended approval of the amendment. Unlike Mr. Harvey, the reporter, our staff administers the code on a daily basis, and, as a result, has a comprehensive understanding of the long-term consequences of code amendments.3. Mr. Harveys’ incorrect assertion that the Wieben application “had not received especially high scores in the growth management competition” is another example of the subjective interpretation of the facts. GMQS threshold is 48 points. Wieben received a score of 52.4. Collins, the other applicant, received a score of 53.6. Added on top of this demanding process is the fact that Wieben successfully completed their 1041 review (another complicated process), and one must question Mr. Harvey’s agenda.Do we live by the land-use rules in place, or do we entertain subjectivity and personal prejudices in the decision making process? I say, though imperfect, that the GMQS and 1041 process go a long way in protecting our environment.4. Wieben’s request to supplement GMQS with TDR’s could have been accomplished if the application had, in the initial crafting of the application, included both requests at the same time. Mr. Harvey omits this fact. He also fails to mention that condition Number 29 of the 1041 approval states that “square footage is allocated through the utilization of Transfer of Development rights …” and this required a code amendment. A majority of the commissioners (Clapper, Harper and Hatfield, a different majority this time), in their discretion, after two public hearings lasting about two hours, chose to approve the applicant’s request. Many factors enter into the decision making process, including protection of the environment and our quality of life, fairness and living with county representations (#29). Should the county not be required to live with its representations, just as the county requires applicants to do?5. Having been on the County P&Z in the mid-?90s that created the TDR program, I find it amazing that Mr. Harvey chooses to almost ignore the positive role TDR’s play in protecting the backcountry from inappropriate development. Instead, he whines about what “might” happen. The benefit of the TDR program (the Child Ranch being the latest and greatest example) speaks for itself, as hundreds upon hundreds of acres have been protected. Yes, there are trade-offs in the amendment. I suspect every situation must be looked at based on its merit. One way (GMQS) or another (TDR’S), the result is protection of the environment.6. GMQS does not determine the rate of growth in Pitkin County, and, as a result, the “rate” of protection of our environment. This fact is significant, as there are hundreds of land-use approvals out there ready to pull building permits.In conclusion, Mr. Harvey fails to understand that it takes a majority of the commissioners to approve land-use actions. Being a very diverse BOCC, majorities change with the issue. Mr. Harvey is patently unfair in focusing on my environmental record, since I not only “talk the talk”, but also “walk the walk.” I stand on my local, regional and statewide environmental record and reputation. I will continue to balance my decisions based on my environmental ethic, my self-imposed definition of fairness and working with people … the public, staff, P&Z and BOCC, as well as the merits of the application.I believe the BOCC can manage growth and protect the environment without “beating” the applicants to death with the land-use code as a “hammer.” I also believe the public, regardless of their environmental background, wants the BOCC to act with integrity and fairness. Mr. Harvey should seek the same ends, even if it means going back to journalism school.Jack HatfieldPitkin County commissioner
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