Aspen City Council eyes slamming brakes on development |

Aspen City Council eyes slamming brakes on development

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council will have a second and final reading today on an emergency ordinance banning new land-use applications in a select group of zoning districts.

The temporary moratorium, which would not apply to the city’s residential or lodging districts, would prohibit the filing of land-use applications in the commercial, service-commercial-industrial, neighborhood commercial and mixed-use zone districts.

The council voted 5-0 on first reading at its Monday meeting. Because it is an emergency ordinance, it goes to a final reading tonight at City Council Chambers, located in the basement of City Hall. The council will entertain the ordinance no later than 5 p.m.; a work session regarding other matters starts at 4. Approval of the ordinance would make it effective immediately.

Community Development Director Jessica Garrow said the moratorium also would apply to any expansion of net leasable space, but there are a few loopholes.

“If mechanical or efficiency equipment were being replaced or added to a building, … those would be allowed to proceed under the current code,” she told the council.

Interior remodels, so long as they don’t include expansion, also wouldn’t be affected, she said.

Additionally, active land-use applications would not be impacted by the moratorium.

Council members didn’t say much about the moratorium; they’ll reserve their comments for tonight’s hearing.

But they did note that the idea had surfaced in October, and hitting the pause button on development will give them and staff members time to match the land-use code with the Aspen Area Community Plan.

The Community Plan is a summarization of Aspen residents’ views and philosophies toward how the town should be — including building sizes, housing the local workforce and transportation, among other issues.

But it is legally nonbinding and oftentimes at odds with the land-use code.

“Basically, we are examining our land-use code because of issues that have arisen attempting to align the land-use code with the vision expressed in the Aspen Area Community Plan,” Mayor Steve Skadron said, adding that the emergency aspect of the ordinance is to “prevent a rush of (land-use) applications based on the code as it exists.”

Matching the land-use code with the Aspen Area Community Plan is one of the City Council’s top 10 goals for 2016.

Councilman Adam Frisch said the idea emerged at a work session in October. In a statement he plans to read at tonight’s special meeting, Frisch said that he noted at the October work session that “any land-use changes we make are already five years behind March of 2016, as that is about how many approved applications are in the pipeline. … So, as we sit here in the start of 2016, I think if our community needs to make any possible land use changes, the prism must be based on the assumed built environment of 2021. If we do not act tonight and, sadly, through the use of the emergency ordinance process, we will be yet another five years behind the pipeline, thus we will spend 2016 talking about what do we want Aspen to look like after 2026.”