Aspen eyes yearly cap on development
ASPEN After nine months of meetings geared toward understanding nearly every aspect development in Aspen, the City Council now has a first draft of code changes for controlling the pace of construction and managing growth in Aspen. Today and Tuesday’s discussions will focus on the pace of development and growth management, and the council will allow public comments.Early last year, public outcry over the amount of construction going on in town reached a boiling point, and the council enacted a moratorium on building applications and permits to buy time to re-examine the city’s codes.As part of the nine months of discussion, issues of construction impacts, changes in character to the town, the scale of new buildings, adequate affordable housing and commercial space, preserving the city’s mid-level lodge rooms and overall density have all come before the council.Proposal for pacingThe draft legislation offers several scenarios for regulating the pace of construction, all based on a lottery system for allowing people to apply for building permits.Under all the scenarios, a project would have to undergo all “substantive” reviews before being able to enter the lottery for a “reservation” to apply for a building permit.Each scenario also divides the year into quarters, whereby a certain number of reservations would be allowed during each quarter.The draft suggests allowing a total of 28 or 14 residential reservations annually within the city, depending on a 2 percent or 1 percent growth rate, respectively.For nonresidential development, the draft suggests an annual allotment of 20 reservations per 200,000 square feet of development.Public projects deemed “Essential Public Facilities,” such as the city’s affordable housing projects, are included in the lottery.After winning a reservation in the lottery, a proposal would have a set amount of time to apply for a building permit. After that, the reservation would no longer be valid.The draft also includes a procedure for a request for priority status in the lottery. Priority would be given to certain projects that had been denied a reservation in the lottery for at least three consecutive lotteries.It also offers losers a chance to appeal.Different optionsAmong the questions the council will hammer out (other than whether to adopt such legislation at all) is whether to allot different amounts of reservations to different sections of town or to have one amount for the city as a whole.Another question the council began discussing Tuesday is whether to include residential “scrape and replace” projects in the pacing system. That discussion reached a boiling point of its own, with council members asking for more details on how many houses might actually be affected.Council members Jack Johnson and Jasmine Tygre both have pointed out the number of vacant lots for new development are few relative to the number of existing homes or buildings that might be redeveloped.According to Community Development Director Chris Bendon and planner Jennifer Phelan’s memo, there are currently 139 vacant lots, 1,264 single family dwellings and 365 duplexes in the city that could either be developed or redeveloped.Those residential development are exempt from the current moratorium, but they are part of the discussion on pacing future construction.Some members of the public at Tuesday’s meeting also were concerned with how the council will address projects already in the pipeline – those that have either been approved or are in the approval process but cannot apply for building permits until the moratorium ends. The council discussed the possibility that those projects might need a separate pacing system since they were in the pipeline before the moratorium and the adoption of any new codes regarding pacing.The list includes roughly 30 projects, nine of which have received approvals and 12 that are still waiting to come before appropriate boards. It also includes eight projects that are already under construction and contributing to the negative impacts of construction within the city.Both Mayor Helen Klanderud and Councilman Torre noted, however, that when it comes to construction traffic and impacts, county projects are outside the city’s control.Planner Sunny Vann was also particularly interested in how projects with vested rights would be affected by any new legislation – whether for projects that have already earned approvals or new proposals that will have to go through the lottery system.As the draft legislation is written, approved projects that enter the lottery would be subject to the land use code in effect when they apply for the building permit. So it is possible the code could change between the time a project earns approvals and wins a spot in the lottery or submits an application for a building permit once it has a reservation.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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