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Aspen council passes laws limiting and accounting for residential growth

After seven months under moratoriums, Aspen City Council pass legislation increasing mitigation fees for homeowners and limiting demolition permits

Aspen City Council passed two ordinances on Thursday that limit residential development and increase affordable housing mitigation fees for property owners when they rebuild.

Council late Tuesday night continued the public hearing for Ordinances 13 and 14 to Thursday for further consideration of longtime locals who own aging properties and argue they will be financially harmed by the new legislation.

Ordinance 13 allows the city to use what is called the growth management quota system to limit the number of demolition permits to six a year.



Longtime property owners told council during public comment Tuesday that the ordinance is unfair because there is no certainty for them to obtain a demolition permit and they are competing with new buyers.

“Most significantly, the $300,000 in increased fees are completely meaningless compared to creating a roll of the dice in order to obtain a demolition permit,” wrote Aspen homeowner Mike Maple in an email to The Aspen Times prior to council’s meeting. “This absolutely destroys the value, to the tune of millions, of any and all ‘tear down’ properties.”




In response to residents’ concerns, council agreed to create a path for Aspen property owners who have owned and occupied their homes for at least 35 years.

After much debate, council unanimously passed an amendment to the ordinance that allows those individuals the ability to go through special review to apply for an additional allotment if they can’t obtain a demolition permit through the new process.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said he is one of the homeowners who will be affected by the new legislation.

“I think the fact that we are here this afternoon should be an indication that we have listened to the community responses and that for me, I’ve given serious considerations to longtime locals and the value a demolition permit might have,” he said.

Both ordinances that were passed Thursday are a result of moratoriums placed on the issuance of short-term rental permits and new residential development orders since December.

City officials claim that an unprecedented amount of growth in recent years has caused quality-of-life impacts to traffic, affordable housing, environmental conditions and other issues that are detailed in the Aspen Area Community Plan.

Maple took objection to the city’s position in his email to the Times.

“The city, seven months later, has in no way provided objective evidence that there is/was an ‘unprecedented amount of growth,’” he wrote. “I can agree that it has felt very busy in town and there has been plenty of construction, but the city has in no way quantified that the ‘growth’ is unprecedented or, more critically, coming from single-family and duplex scrape and replace activity that they are now trying to reduce. You cannot manage or mitigate what you cannot measure.”

In their public comments during Tuesday’s hearing, Maple and other homeowners also argued that the increased affordable housing mitigation creates hardship for them because it could cost upward of $500,000 in fees.

The city responded to those concerns by referring to a deferral agreement in the ordinance, so the mitigation fees do not need to be paid until the transfer of ownership of a property goes to someone who is not deemed a local resident, according to requirements of the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, which includes working in the county 1,500 hours a year.

Maple pointed out flaws in that legislation as well.

“A deferral of fees is not the same as amortization or reduction of fees based on the fact that by definition, the applicable home is housing an APCHA qualified employee,” he wrote. “Grossly unfair.”

Community Development Director Phillip Supino refuted suggestions by critics that the new regulations will be ineffective in responding to council and the community’s concerns about environmental degradation and addressing climate change.

“The community overwhelmingly supported climate action and mitigating landfill-related impacts through these regulations,” he said regarding the seven-month process leading up to the new legislation. “Addressing these issues through better development regulations, which is what these ordinances would do, was the basis of a huge portion of this process and industry professionals have led us to this point with this framework.”

Council on Tuesday passed Ordinance 9, which reduces the number of exiting short-term rental permits by 25%, along with other limitations based on what zone district properties are located in.

The new regulations on short-term rentals will take effect July 29, which is prior to the Sept. 30 expiration of the moratorium on issuing permits.

Ordinances 13 and 14 will go into effect prior to the conclusion of the moratorium on Aug. 8.


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