Aspen enacts new building ban |

Aspen enacts new building ban

Abigail Eagye
Bartender Shelly Koehler, clears the counter at the Red Onion, where a "Save The Onion" t-shirt hangs above the bar. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN As of today, a new building ban is in effect in Aspen’s commercial core.The new moratorium begins just as the council wraps up discussions about a current one set to end Feb. 28.Both prohibitions are intended to give the council a reprieve from incoming development proposals to search for ways to protect the city’s character.The difference is that the new moratorium addresses the interiors of buildings, which aren’t covered directly under the first.

The new moratorium puts a six-month halt to interior renovations that would require building permits – as well as a number of minor changes that normally don’t need city approval. The ordinance lists as off-limits, “tiling, cabinets, counter tops, and similar finish work, including window and door trim, baseboard, wainscot, and built-in furniture such as booths, banquets, bars, and shelving.”Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss introduced the new moratorium Monday night, and by Tuesday’s meeting, city staff had helped hone the language to account for potential exceptions.Projects that have already earned the council’s approval, including the Hotel Jerome, approved Monday night, are not covered by the ban. And renovations that have been granted a main building permit but not permits for subcontractors can still apply for those secondary permits.”Painting, papering, and carpeting which does not require a building permit” are also allowed.Businesses that simply intend to change locations, as often happens in the spring, should be exempt from the ban if they do not need to make significant changes to the interiors of their new buildings. And renovations to noncommercial space, such as apartments in the downtown core, are also exempted.

Businesses with plans for work that is covered by the moratorium can appeal to the city’s Community Development Director, who has some latitude to allow certain projects to proceed. If an applicant isn’t pleased with the director’s decision, he can then appeal directly to the City Council.Although the moratorium came, in part, in response to news that the popular locals’ restaurant the Red Onion will close in March, the emergency ordinance won’t necessarily save that business.The Onion’s owners have said the sharp increase in rent will make it too difficult to remain profitable, and the ordinance doesn’t prevent such changes in the lease.The building’s owners can rent the space to a new tenant and even change the use, “as long as they don’t require a building permit,” said City Attorney John Worcester.

City Councilman Jack Johnson said the moratorium is about far more than just the Onion, though.”I think the conversation’s a hell of a lot bigger than one business or one building,” he said, observing that the community has been talking about preserving its character for some time.”We haven’t done a damn thing except talk about it,” he said, and the moratorium will give the council a chance to act.The council passed the emergency ordinance by a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Helen Klanderud dissenting.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is

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