Aspen City Council: Time to level
December 14, 2007
Lately the relationship between the Aspen City Council and the developers seeking its approval has seemed like a series of job interviews in which the employer knows all along the applicant has no chance of getting hired.A few high-profile development projects have been shot down in recent months by the newly elected council, even though, by all appearances, the developers met the criteria of the revised land-use code. A perfect example of that cropped up earlier this month when the owners of the Wienerstube building sought City Councils approval to redevelop the space. By all accounts, the developers followed the rules by meeting the citys land-use code regulations. They already received the blessing of the Historic Preservation (HPC) and Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commissioners, but City Council members told them to come back with a better plan.Council members told the Wienerstube developers which included planner Stan Clauson, building owner Steve Marcus and architect Andy Wisnoski that the proposal was out of character with the area, mainly because it was three stories and the surrounding buildings are one and two levels. Even so, that design met the land-use code and HPC, P&Z and city staff agreed. The developers arent sure if theyll return. Its a very difficult environment, Clauson recently told The Aspen Times.It should be difficult; voters elected this council because they wanted them to be tough on development, and thats what theyre doing. However, when developers play by the rules theyre given, we seriously question whether this new land-use code is really working, or whether its just a ruse.For sure, the city lost more than a few brain cells rewriting the land-use code, but it seems like an artificial one to us. If the criteria City Council wants developers to meet is different than the land-use codes, developers should know that. For now, though, the playing field does not seem level. And while we dont advocate runaway development, we do believe the process should be fair. In the meantime, the countless hours of meeting time spent in City Hall seem to be a waste of time and money for everyone involved, especially if the City Council knows from the beginning the developer does not have a chance.