Aspen activist Myrin’s petition drive takes shape
The Aspen Times
Resident Bert Myrin believes he has the signatures required to advance his Home Rule Charter amendment question — which seeks to strip the Aspen City Council of its ability to grant land-use variances — to May’s ballot.
Myrin and four other co-signers have until Feb. 4 to garner 304 signatures, or 5 percent of Aspen’s registered voters. Standing outside City Market on Wednesday, Myrin said that though he has not made an official count, he believes his group has been acquiring 100 signatures a day since Saturday.
“I hope by the end of the day we have 500 (signatures). We’re shooting for well over 300 because we don’t know what the dropout ratio is going to be,” Myrin said, adding that he estimates about 30 to 40 percent of the signatures will be invalid.
If Myrin is short on Feb. 4, he will have 15 additional days to collect the required amount.
Myrin’s proposal — which applies to all commercial and lodging zones but not residential — would subject all variance requests on height, floor area, parking and affordable housing to a public vote.
Meanwhile, at the request of the council, city planners are working to craft a code amendment that addresses variance control. Senior planner Jessica Garrow said she and Community Development Director Chris Bendon will garner feedback from the Planning and Zoning and Historic Preservation commissions before determining a potential upper limit on variance requests. Planners hope to have language for a public vote prepared for the council March 9.
The city had the ability to craft its own home rule charter, which would have potentially faced off with Myrin’s in May, but the council opted to explore a code amendment, which is not subject to a public vote.
Among those against Myrin’s amendment is former Community Development Director and planner Stan Clauson, who has represented various private development projects before the council.
He argued that the council and its commissions are using proper discretion on land-use applications and questioned whether the general public will take the time needed to review proposals and make informed decisions.
“The planned development provisions of the code have been carried out pretty wisely by council,” Clauson said. “I don’t really understand what the problem is with respect to the decisions that have been made. … I don’t think there has been any wholesale abuse of discretion. I think that those kinds of (variances) that are provided for are really necessary to get good projects in our community.”
His concern is that any planned development application subject to a public vote will turn into a propaganda battle between the two sides. At the same time, he said that type of discussion doesn’t lend itself to the level of deliberation that occurs at the council or commission level.
“I don’t think it’s going to be of any particular benefit and may well be to the detriment of our community,” Clauson said.
He used Mark Hunt’s recent lodging applications, Base1 and Base2, as examples of how the council is using the proper amount of discretion.
“It’s been pretty clear that the largest variations that (Hunt) is requesting have not had a good reception and are not going to get a good reception, so what’s the problem?” Clauson said.
Myrin’s proposed Home Rule Charter amendment was crafted similarly to legislation adopted recently in Telluride, where a resident petition drive began over fears that big development was threatening town character.
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