ACES project gets discount on building, planning fees
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies won the favor of three of five City Council members in its effort to have planning and building permit fees waived for an expansion to its viewing platform.
Council members expressed reservations at their Monday meeting about giving ACES a break of as much as $5,000 on its fees, fearing it would set a precedent for other nonprofits seeking financial concessions.
Community Development Director Jessica Garrow also cautioned against the waiver, but the council compromised by being willing to give ACES 50 percent off $8,960 that it would be required to pay — $7,150 for the planning review and $1,810 for the building-permit review. The council’s vote also included that the fee waiver could go as high as $5,000 if the fees increase during the process.
“If the fee is not waived, I don’t know if we can go through with it,” ACES Executive Director Chris Lane said of the project. “We certainly don’t have that money budgeted, that’s for sure.”
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ACES is proposing to expand its viewing platform, located on Hallam Lake, for safety and efficiency reasons, Lane said.
“We’re tying to take the staircase and deck that overlooks the Roaring Fork River and Hunter Creek and make it safer, add railing to make it safer, widen the stairway to make it safer,” he told the council.
Council members said by giving ACES a price break on building and planning fees, it would be a good idea to review the fee structure as it applies to nonprofits in general.
“I think it’s crazy that nonprofits are being asked to pay the same thing as a developer,” Councilman Adam Frisch said.
Garrow said a fee change for nonprofits could be considered in the fall during budget season.
“It will take some time and analysis in terms of tackling that,” she said.
Voting in favor of the waiver were council members Art Daily, Frisch and Ann Mullins.
Councilman Bert Myrin and Mayor Steve Skadron were opposed, saying the fees shouldn’t be flexible until legislation is passed.
“I am not willing to legislate on the fly,” Myrin said.
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.