Aspen council sets plan for 2011 AACP review
ASPEN – The Aspen City Council on Tuesday set up a system for how it will proceed with its review of the Aspen Area Community Plan, a document that has been undergoing an extensive revision for nearly three years.Aspen and Pitkin County planning and zoning commissions are nearly finished with their rewrite of the 2011 community plan. Council members will begin their own review process after the city’s P&Z votes to recommend the document to them. At the county level, the county’s P&Z will adopt the document on its own with ratification from the Board of County Commissioners to follow.During Tuesday’s work session, the council set Sept. 19 as the date it would start examining the document in detail. The AACP is considered a map for future decisions on future growth, environmental stewardship, historic preservation, recreation and other important aspects of community life. The 2011 version is more complex than its predecessor, the 2000 AACP, and has taken much longer to craft. The public can view the final draft of the new version at http://www.aspenpitkin.com. After calling up the city-county government homepage, scroll down and click on the icon that says “2011 AACP.”The council’s discussion centered on which areas to tackle first and how many meetings there should be. A majority of council members favored a plan to hold four or five meetings and to start with the simpler chapters – what Councilman Adam Frisch referred to as the “low-hanging fruit.”Those starter chapters include noncontroversial topics, such as the community’s wishes for parks and recreation, the environment and “The Lifelong Aspenite,” a section for plans to improve the health and welfare of longtime residents. “Those are substantive chapters, but there’s not a lot of difference of opinion in the community about the policies that are suggested there,” said Chris Bendon, the city’s director of community development.”We’ll try that and get a couple of chapters under our belt, then we’ll get into the more meaty chapters; transportation, housing and growth will probably be the last ones that we do,” he added.An exact timetable has not been laid out, but Bendon said he expects the review process to run through October. The city will be working on its 2012 budget this fall, at roughly the same time. Final adoption of the plan might not occur until November or even December, depending on how fast the council tackles the review. The public will have a chance to weigh in on the document at public hearings before the final vote.At some point in the next month or two, the City Council and county commissioners will hold a joint meeting to make sure they are on the same page. Nothing has been scheduled so far.The city P&Z is likely to recommend considering the 2011 AACP a “guiding document,” unlike the 2000 version, which is considered regulatory. However, the plan includes suggestions for code amendments that would change the rules for development and other facets of the community that fall under local government control. Still to be decided is whether the City Council will opt to pass the code amendments before or after adoption of the AACP as an advisory plan.For instance, the plan addresses the scale and mass of future development projects around town, many of which are likely to generate controversy among pro- and anti-growth community forces. Recommended changes to the code as the new version outlines would not take effect if the community plan first passes as an advisory document. They would be “in limbo,” as Mayor Mick Ireland pointed out, until the council directly addresses the code changes through separate amendments.Ireland brought up the idea of tackling the entire document in a day or two, but didn’t appear to garner support from the four council members. Still, the council didn’t like the idea of extending the process to 15 or 20 meetings, one of the options the Community Development Department presented.”What I don’t want to do is repeat what Planning and Zoning has been doing for three years,” said Councilman Steve Skadron.He and others expressed a small measure of anxiety over the sheer magnitude of the new community plan.”A document that starts out with the section, ‘How to read this document’ suggests to me complexity,” Skadron added.”I’m willing to do just about anything at this point,” Ireland said, perhaps echoing the sentiments of many others who are ready to see the tedious process completed.Former Mayor Helen Klanderud, an Aspen Chamber Resort Association board member, asked whether the public will get enough time to comment on what it likes and doesn’t like about the plan. Earlier this year, local business leaders expressed concerns about various aspects of the AACP revision, including its tone and its effect on future development and the lodging industry.”I’m saying the public may not embrace your decisions,” she said.Ireland then sought to reassure Klanderud that there would be public hearings before a final vote, following the same procedures used with other ordinances the council considers.Klanderud said she was on committees that helped to shape the 2000 AACP. She praised the long hours and hard work that the city and county P&Zs have put into the new version, but noted that the process a decade ago didn’t take nearly as long.The process is taking longer this time around, she believes, because more people are involved in writing it and because of the many small and large community group sessions from late 2008 to late 2010 to gauge input. Klanderud didn’t criticize the new process, but noted that it was markedly different from previous efforts to shape the community firstname.lastname@example.org
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.