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Analyze course of development

Aspen City Council last week adopted an emergency ordinance that will cut nearly in half the number of building permits for new free-market residential construction projects each year. In 2005, the city issued 36 residential building permits for projects of all sizes, from one-home, one-permit developments to the Limelite Lodge redevelopment, which required 15 such permits. If things don’t slow down this year, they certainly should next, since only 18 permits will be available in 2006. The City Council also rejected a second emergency ordinance that would have imposed a moratorium on so-called “scrape and build” residential projects, in which a developer demolishes an existing home or duplex and replaces it with a new single-family home or duplex. In doing so, council members voted against radically slowing redevelopment of Aspen’s residential neighborhoods, though perhaps they took the time to reconsider the way the city is being developed.It would be a mistake for City Council to consider last week’s decision on building permits any kind of solution to the problem so many people see with development in Aspen. Too many questions remain:Are we getting what we want out of the infill regulations adopted last year? Do we really want to see swanky residential penthouses altering our commercial district? Are we failing to protect our town’s heritage by allowing such extensive remodeling and redevelopment of the city’s historic Victorian homes?Is it worth losing the low-rise mix of condos, apartments and lodges along Aspen Street where it slopes sharply upward to Lift 1A in order to add high-end hotel rooms and fractional units in a new building that would exceed long-established height limits adopted to keep the mountains in plain view?In addition to the emergency ordinance adopted last week, there are other signs of hope. The uproar over Jonathan Lewis’ proposed deck and lighted canopy at the edge of the bluff overlooking Hallam Lake is a clear signal from the community that there are limits about what’s acceptable. And Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss’ reconsideration of the lot split and opening of a new alley on the large Monarch Street lot that is home to the “Blue Vic” shows a sensitivity to the community that many people thought was missing from this council. There are certain incursions into our community sanctuaries that simply are not acceptable.City Council should take advantage of our discontent to open a broader community discussion that analyzes the city’s current course of development and redevelopment, and provides clear direction about where we as a community want to go.


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