Aspen City Council to deal with housing, bike-race matters
With the big issue of Aspen Valley Hospital’s continued expansion out of the way — the taxpayer-supported health care facility received unanimous approval for the third and fourth phases of the $140 million-plus, four-phase project on May 13 — the Aspen City Council will return matters of a lesser profile when it meets Tuesday.
Typically, council members hold their regular meetings on the second and fourth Mondays of the month. Today’s Memorial Day holiday postpones the meeting by 24 hours, with the council returning to action on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at City Hall, 130 S. Galena St.
A public hearing is scheduled on a proposal that seeks to free up space in Aspen and Pitkin County’s affordable-housing program for seasonal workers needing short-term rental. The proposal would allow a retiree who owns their unit to leave their home for as long as six months of the year as long as they lease their home to a qualified local employee. Currently, they are required to live in their home for at least nine months.
The concept received introductory approval from the Aspen City Council on May 13 and from the Board of County Commissioners on May 8. Commissioners take up the matter again Wednesday; council members will be asked to give their final blessing at their next regular meeting on May 28, the day after their Monday holiday for Memorial Day.
At the council’s May 13 meeting, Tom McCabe, executive director of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, outlined the need for more rental units. He agreed with other council members who said there could be some risk associated with homeowners renting out their units to workers who aren’t going to live there very long, but he added that homeowners could gain some protections though an official lease.
Homeowners would have to take certain steps to participate, he said. The list of stipulations would include: a request for a leave of absence through the housing office; ensuring that someone locally would be able to take care of property issues for the renter when the owner is away; and permission from the homeowners’ association if the unit is subject to an association’s rules.
Mayor Mick Ireland cast doubt on whether the rule change would be effective but didn’t say he was against it.
Also on Tuesday, council members are expected to decide the fate of a funding request from the organizers of American Renewable Energy Day. The ARE Day promoters want to bring back renowned blues artist Taj Mahal for a second straight year.
At a work session on May 20, organizers asked for $15,000 to help defray the $49,000 cost of the show. Councilman Torre asked for a delay in the decision, saying he wanted a few more days to help find sponsors willing to put up some money for the proposed Aug. 18 event at Paepcke Park. Last year, ARE Day officials put on the free concert at Wagner Park with the help of an anonymous donor.
Chip Comins, chairman and CEO of the ARE Institute, said he’s almost certain he can book Mahal and his Phantom Blues Band, with Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell as special guest. Comins has a personal friendship with Mahal, a 71-year-old Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and instrumentalist.
He spoke of how the concert might provide a “green bridge” between the ARE Day Summit on the Aspen Meadows campus, set for Aug. 15 to 18, and the USA Pro Challenge cycling race, which kicks off in the Aspen-Snowmass area on Aug. 19 and leaves Aspen on the morning of Aug. 20 for Breckenridge.
Speaking of the bike race, council members will hear a request from Nancy Lesley, the city’s director of special events and marketing, to allow promotional banners on Main Street and the downtown area for four weeks instead of the usual two-week limit permitted by city code.
Lesley also will ask the council to ban construction within what’s defined as the “central resort area” on Aug. 19 and part of Aug. 20. The area includes the downtown area and its immediate surroundings, from First Street on the west to Cleveland Street going eastward, with a southern border at Aspen Mountain and a northern border at Rio Grande Place.
The council also is expected to take up proposed city staff changes to the municipal sign code, including relaxed rules for commercial sandwich boards that would allow them outside the downtown area.
Tenants at the city’s oldest deed-restricted housing complex, Centennial Apartments, faced rent hikes as high as 30% in January that sent city, county, and APCHA officials into closed-door meetings with the relatively new landlord, Birge & Held.