AACP process high-jacked
Torre is right – the Aspen Area Community Plan (AACP) process has been high-jacked by certain factions in the community, but the high-jacking occurred long ago in the planning and implementation of the AACP process.
I have participated in the AACP update at every opportunity. At each step in the AACP process, it has been clear to me that the staff/consultants/politicians did not want to diverge from their agenda and process. The process started with a series of studies that were targeted to focus on maximum potential impacts and sensationalized conclusions.
An example of this is the build-out analysis, which assumes every Pitkin County parcel would be developed (or redeveloped) to the maximum of permitted zoning and maximum TDR production despite the fact that few parcels have been developed in Aspen and particularly in Pitkin County to their maximum permitted zoning for decades, and this is highly unlikely, based on both economic reality and regulations, to change.
Next up was small group meetings. These meetings were window dressing. I doubt any issues/concerns raised in these meetings altered the agenda/topics in the mail survey (that was mailed out a few days after the small group sessions – indicating no consideration of community input was possible) or in the process that followed. Community Planning processes appropriately start with ideas and objectives presented by staff/consultants/politicians. The problem in Aspen and Pitkin County is the process forms around those staff/consultants/politicians’ ideas/agenda to gain support for those ideas rather than respond to the input and perspective of the broader community.
Prior to the AACP update, I observed this most clearly in the development of the Cemetery Lane Neighborhood Plan. The staff came to the neighborhood with ideas and issues – an agenda. At the first meeting, the neighborhood said, “Those are not our concerns, these are our concerns.”
At the next meeting, the staff came back with the same issues repackaged, largely ignoring the neighborhood’s stated issues. Once again, the neighborhood said, “Those are not our concerns, but these are.”
At the third meeting, staff came back with the same issues, once again repackaged. This process went on for several meetings (a great waste of time and energy) until some members of the neighborhood were finally able to participate in setting the agenda instead of having the agenda dictated by staff. The members of the neighborhood also participated in the formation of survey questions. The outcome was high neighborhood participation and a rejection of nearly all of the original staff/consultants/politicians’ agenda for the Cemetery Lane neighborhood.
The bottom line is, a community plan or neighborhood plan should start with an even-handed review of issues and concerns as distilled by staff/consultants/politicians, but such issues should only spark the debate and quickly move on to the issues presented by the community or neighborhood.
The AACP only has validity to and for the “community” if the “community” truly has input. Despite the AACP input process being “award winning,” it has not allowed authentic “community” feedback. While the AACP has been an overblown and misguided process, the process can and should be fixed prior to any adoption. Unless there is change, the AACP will not be a “community” plan, it will be a staff/consultants/politicians’ plan.
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