Aspen adopts Civic Master Plan
December 13, 2006
Aspen, CO Colo.
ASPEN ” A long-awaited vision for city-owned properties in downtown Aspen is finally a reality.
The Civic Master Plan, approved by the City Council on Monday, identifies eight core principles, based on the Aspen Area Community Plan, for determining the best uses of city-owned parcels between Aspen Mountain and the Roaring Fork River.
The city hatched the planning process nearly seven years ago, when various local entities, including the Aspen Chamber Resort Association visitors center and the arts community, identified desires for downtown facilities.
At the same time, the city discovered a leak in the Rio Grande Parking Garage roof. Sitting atop the roof is the Galena Plaza ” which the plan calls a “failed public space” ” leading to discussions about what could be done to make better use of the plaza in conjunction with the needed roof repairs.
More recently, both the city and Pitkin County have seen the need for more government office space ” something the public has indicated it wants to see in town.
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The city initiated the Civic Master Plan process with the goal of creating an overall plan for various “civic” spaces and their potential future use.
As the plan made its way through the Planning and Zoning Commission, however, some commissioners and members of the public expressed concern that the document is a definitive plan for developing the parcels in question, not merely a flexible vision that offers suggestions only.
But at Monday’s meeting, Community Development Director Chris Bendon told the council the plan establishes no entitlements. Any future proposals for the properties will still have to go through the normal approval channels, he said.
The difference between a “regulatory” and a “guiding” document was an issue for some at Monday’s meeting.
Bendon tried to clarify that the Civic Master Plan is a regulatory document, but the city must have a specific proposal on the table in order for the plan to have any teeth. A development proposal would have to be consistent with the Civic Master Plan, just as it must be consistent with the AACP, he said.
Guiding documents, on the other hand, help city officials plan for the future, but they do not come into play once a proposal is on the table. Bendon cited the city’s 2002 Affordable Housing Strategic Plan as a guiding document. Officials might use that plan as a guide to identify potential properties to buy or develop with worker housing, but housing development proposals on the table don’t have to show consistency with it.
Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss, who cast the sole vote against adopting the Civic Master Plan, said he supports its core principles, but he’s concerned that its specific suggestions for uses on various properties could be interpreted too rigidly. He supported the idea of making the core principles regulatory and adopting the suggested uses as guides only.
Mayor Helen Klanderud, who worked on the task force that developed the plan, rejected that idea and called it functional as a whole.
“I think it provides direction,” she said. “I think it does guide.”
– Civic and arts/cultural uses belong in the heart of town.
– Mixed-use buildings and mixed-use areas create vibrant, memorable places.
– Focus on creating great people places.
– Affordable housing and affordable commercial space ensures viability of civic functions and vitality of town.
– Civic planning must address the need for parking while not inducing additional traffic.
– Partnerships among and between the public and private sectors can be very advantageous in achieving civic goals.
– Pedestrian orientation creates connections between neighborhoods.
– Arts and culture is an intrinsic asset.
Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org