Aspen council identifies Rubey Park, Galena Street corridor as priorities
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – Improving the Rubey Park transit center, providing greater pedestrian safety on Main Street and creating a friendly walking corridor from the Pitkin County Library plaza southward along Galena Street were identified Monday as high priorities for the Aspen City Council over the next few years.
Other initiatives that rose to the top of the council’s wish list in a city staff survey include maximizing the use of affordable housing and mitigating the effects of development and traffic.
Each of those items sparked a short discussion during a council work session on outlining ways to put the recently approved Aspen Area Community Plan into action. Council members and Community Development Department staff spoke generally about the six projects. Special projects planner Ben Gagnon said the timing and costs surrounding each proposal will be worked out in the coming months.
Councilman Torre spoke mainly about Rubey Park.
“It needs some attention,” he said. “We’ve heard from Engineering and several other departments that it needs a minimum of several hundred thousand dollars of just curb and gutter (upgrades).”
Torre said he has a long-term vision for the Rubey Park area that involves more than just basic improvements to the station and the area around it. He said he’d like to see the ice-skating rink across the street raised a full floor level so that it affords better views of the city and attracts more users. As for the depot itself, he suggested the creation of outdoor shelters for people waiting on buses and added that the planters next to the main building prevent people from circulating and should be removed.
“Rubey Park needs an overhaul. It needs to be a better place to hang out,” he said. “The indoor facilities are extremely small and not that accommodating. … It would probably take a few million more than we have in our budgets in the next five, six, seven years, but I’d like to start entertaining some sketches and plans and vision for that area.”
Torre also spoke about the need for an improved bus stop near Main and Aspen streets, in front of the Orthopaedic Associates building.
“It’s one of the most heavily used bus stops in town, and it doesn’t function at all,” he said. “I think we’ve upped it to two benches now. There’s nothing there. It’s just terrible.”
Councilman Steve Skadron said pedestrian safety on Main Street should be one of the highest priorities.
“We need to move away from this idea where pedestrians are used for traffic control,” he said. “The situation today is untenable. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.”
Skadron added that he’d like the council to reconsider a proposal that was deemed unpopular in the past: a median along Main Street. Other council members mentioned the possibility of raised crosswalks as a method of slowing down traffic.
Councilman Adam Frisch pointed out that the council already comes up with a list of 10 goals annually and now is adding more by coming up with priorities for implementing the community plan.
“I think a top-10 list is one of the worst things (for government) because it asks us to do a lot more stuff than I think we can do every year, even with a great staff and good council people,” Frisch said. “I’m happy with three or four.”
Earlier this year, the council already gave its nod to two other initiatives connected to the community plan: reducing heights and massing in the downtown core, and streamlining the code-amendment process. The council, in keeping with the intent of the community plan, wants to examine changes to the land-use code such as reducing maximum heights for building projects from the current 42-foot level, possibly down to the 28- to 32-foot range.
Frisch said he is willing to examine such changes, but at the same time, he wants to ensure that the downtown area’s economic vitality remains intact despite anti-growth sentiments from some in the community and local government.
“I want to be more respectful of what a job brings to a community,” he said.
However, Frisch repeated a thought he expressed during his council campaign last spring, saying that Aspen can grow economically without having to build new and taller structures.
“I don’t think there is a 100 percent correlation that more jobs equal bigger buildings,” he said.
Councilman Derek Johnson said more attention needs to be focused on the impact of the community plan’s implementation steps and changes to the land-use code.
“I want to understand what’s going to happen if we do these things,” he said. “I want to understand what’s going to happen to our resort economy, the sustainability of (it), with a number of these initiatives.”
He said reducing heights and massing in the downtown area might be the appropriate thing to do, “but I want to have a better understanding of what it’s going to do to our economy, real estate markets, the (real estate transfer tax),” Johnson said. “Before we just jump into things because they seem right or feel right, I really want to know what’s going to happen.”
City staff and council members have scheduled a work session on potential land-use code changes for April 2.
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It’s that time of year — hikers and mountain bikers must be aware that seasonal closures are taking effect on multiple trails in the area today for the winter for the benefit of wildlife.