Aspen electeds support limiting number of demolition allotments for residential development
As part of proposed policy changes during moratorium, Aspen City Council supports pacing development through growth management quota system
As part of its response to the unprecedented pace of residential development in Aspen and the impacts it creates on the community, City Council members on Monday agreed to an approach in the land use code that would limit how many homes can be demolished in a year.
By utilizing the city’s existing allotments in its growth management quota system toward projects that fall under the definition of demolition, it will likely slow the pace or scale of residential development, drive some projects to reduce their scope and draw objections from those in the community who favor the status quo, according to Ben Anderson, principal long-range planner, and Community Development Director Phillip Supino.
“We have been having conversations with you as a group for four years now about these various topics about pace and scale of development, about growth management in the allotment system, about solid waste …,” Supino told council during its work session on Monday. “In our estimation, this response is not only the most surgical response that we could come up within our existing regulatory framework to deal with that many issues … it is also the most direct way to get at the type of development that we’re currently seeing in town and can expect to see in the future in the community.”
Council in December passed a six-month emergency moratorium on new residential development, citing massive quality-of-life impacts to traffic, affordable housing, environmental conditions and other issues that are detailed in the Aspen Area Community Plan, which is a guiding document from which officials base their decisions.
Supino, who along with Anderson and outside consultants are heading up the effort to bring new legislation to council at the end of April and beginning of May, said the community has undergone a significant amount of change in recent years.
“The statistic I heard in one of our interviews was that the upper valley, including the county, has between $4 billion and $6 billion worth of new owners … in the last three to five years,” he said.
With that kind of activity occurring in the community, council members voiced their support to using the existing growth management quota system to limit residential development and its impacts.
Staff is analyzing past and current building permit data to understand what a possible number of annual demolition allotments might be.
That path would shift demolition projects from currently being by right and straight to building permit to a process that would require review by the city’s planning and zoning or historic preservation commissions, or at least a formal administrative review — either of which would be initiated by a land use application.
One result is that it would increase public scrutiny of projects and be an acknowledgment of the impact of these developments relative to AACP policy, according to Anderson.
City staff and elected officials have known for at least a year that the GMQS is ill-equipped to manage development as the allotment system was intended.
Demolition is defined in the land use code as the deconstruction of 40% or more of a structure.
Projects that pass that threshold, or fully scrape and replace an existing home, are exponentially more complex in their scope, longer in duration and significant in their community, housing and environmental impacts, Anderson said.
However, GMQS does not address those projects as comprehensively as new development, where residential uses did not previously exist.
“When we look across town, and the residential construction scene feels more busy than ever, and you can stand on a corner in the West End and point to four major projects with construction fencing, and that’s a situation you can replicate in several areas of town … I think that this GMQS system that we’ve had that’s really defined much of our land use context for decades is just not capturing that,” Anderson said.
Staff will work on what a defensible number of demolition allotments could be for council to consider in the future.
Mayor Torre echoed his council members Monday in their support of advancing the policy to mitigate the impacts of residential development.
“I can support the direction you are bringing on this, and it makes a lot of sense,” he said.
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