A retail-only zone in Aspen? | AspenTimes.com

A retail-only zone in Aspen?

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Preventing additional offices from taking up prime retail spaces in downtown Aspen appears to have support from a majority of the City Council.

Council members directed city staffers Tuesday to draft an ordinance enacting the ban as a first step toward further debate on the controversial move.

Though four members of the council indicated they’d support some sort of prohibition on the further intrusion of nonretail businesses into ground-floor spaces in the core, they were split on how broad an area should be encompassed by the ban.

Councilman Tim Semrau suggested a new zoning district limited solely to the pedestrian malls.

“I’m sure there’s a variety of things we might want to do in there and this would be one of them,” he said.

Councilwoman Rachel Richards opposed the new zone district and urged the council to move forward quickly with the ban to prevent further degradation of downtown vitality.

“I’m not interested in any further research on the issue,” she said. “I think it’s time to do something.”

Councilman Terry Paulson sided with Richards, while Councilman Torre said he’d like to see the ban imposed in a “pedestrian zone” that would include the malls and some surrounding blocks.

Mayor Helen Klanderud said she favors letting market forces dictate the makeup of Aspen’s commercial buildings.

“There are those who fear some unintended consequences with this,” she said.

A proliferation of timeshare and real estate offices in prime retail spots first led to calls for such a ban two summers ago. When the former Aspen Drug gave way to resort real estate sales by Intrawest, some merchants clamored for action.

At that time, the council declined to take immediate action, since the ban was part of a broader package of zoning amendments then under review. That legislation died late last year.

The proposal recently resurfaced when a pair of retail consultants suggested Aspen might want to prevent the further spread of offices in a “retail only” zone, but let existing nonretail uses remain.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]