AACP will set new limit on urban growth | AspenTimes.com

AACP will set new limit on urban growth

John Colson

Local officials are hoping to adopt the long-awaited revisions to the Aspen Area Community Plan by early March, after a series of public hearings and intergovernmental meetings.

Nearly two years in the making – the effort that included participation by dozens of local citizens as well as local bureaucrats – the revised document is based on the original 1993 AACP and carries over much of the content of that original plan.

The public will get a chance to look over the revised plan at an open house on Wednesday at the Wheeler Opera House, between 3 and 7 p.m. Copies of the draft revisions are available at the Community Development Department office on the third floor of City Hall.

Officials estimate that about 70 percent of the goals outlined in the 1993 plan have been accomplished prior to inauguration of the scheduled five-year update process, according to City Planning Director Julie Ann Woods. A list of these accomplishments is contained in the draft plan.

And, Woods said, Mayor Rachel Richards has expressed the hope that the same level of accomplishment will be born out under the revised plan.

Perhaps most significant among the new provisions to the plan is the creation of an Aspen Community Growth Boundary that is intended to act as a limit to future urban growth.

The growth boundary, according to the draft plan, “focuses development inside the boundary while discouraging urban levels of development outside. This might require some upzoning and special incentives within the city to encourage infill development [construction of affordable housing units in the commercial core or other areas of town], and limitations on development outside of the Community Growth Boundary.”

The proposed boundary extends downvalley to just beyond the city’s snow dump property opposite the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Woods said the governments of Aspen and Pitkin County are now working out an intergovernmental agreement that calls for cooperative land-use review procedures on both sides of the boundary, in order to achieve the goal of keeping urban-style development inside the line.

Another central component of the plan is the section on affordable housing, which calls for creation of between 800 and 1,300 additional homes for local workers, in addition to what exists today.

Although the original plan called for housing 60 percent of Aspen’s work force in the upper valley, the AACP reports that the actual percentage of Aspen workers who live in the upper valley fell from 45 percent in 1993 to 35 percent in 1997.

The revised document does not call for housing a specific percentage of the working population in the upper valley, but it does categorically state that the goal is to build new affordable housing within the community growth boundary.

One section of the 32-page document is devoted to outlining a host of current and planned affordable housing sites, where officials hope they can ultimately build anywhere from 626 to 976 housing units.

A controversial topic in the revision, the section on transportation, does not specifically mention any particular type of mass transit, but expresses the conviction that local governments concentrate on providing “a balanced, integrated transportation system for residents, visitors and commuters that reduces congestion and air pollution.” Overall, the goals include reduction of traffic in town from 1999 levels, and limiting traffic on Highway 82 to the levels reached in 1993.

Other sections in the draft revision touch on a broad range of topics, including the town’s character, its growth philosophy, parks and open space, historic preservation, the philosophy concerning quality of design of structures in town, and how to assure economic sustainability for the community as a whole.

Woods said the planning staff is currently working on the action plan that will accompany the revised AACP itself. It will lay out the schedule for accomplishing the many policy initiatives contained in the plan.

That document is expected to be presented to the City Council in the coming weeks, before the first formal public hearing on the AACP before the joint city/ county planning and zoning commissions. That first hearing is scheduled for Jan. 18 at 5 p.m. at the City Council chambers in City Hall.

The first airing of the AACP before a joint session of the City Council and county commissioners is scheduled for Feb. 8, and final adoption is tentatively scheduled for March 1, Woods said.

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