Aspen residents: Retain small-town feel, lose the traffic congestion |

Aspen residents: Retain small-town feel, lose the traffic congestion

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspen’s small-town character remains at or near the top of a list of assets admired and desired by area residents, according to a pair of surveys completed recently.

But a large number of people feel that very asset is either disappearing or missing altogether, and believe the government must do something to turn the trend around, but generally feel the town is moving in the right direction.

And a solid majority of residents feel the most important issue that will face the community in the near future is traffic congestion.

The two surveys were recently completed as part of an ongoing effort to update the Aspen Area Community Plan (AACP). The plan is the guiding document for both the city and the county regarding land-use policies and regulations in the city, and the urban-growth boundary that extends past the Aspen Business Center.

The results of both efforts were discussed at a joint meeting of the Aspen City Council and the Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday. The survey results are available on the joint city-county website at, and one set of results makes use of high-tech software to spice up the presentation.

The AACP update, which local planners also are calling the Community Vision Plan, takes in everything from growth rates, the affordable housing program and assessments of local transportation systems and parks and recreational amenities.

One of the surveys, called the “clickerfest” by one City Council member, is a compilation of information from three public meetings. A total of more than 400 attendees responded to a series of questions with special electronic keypads hooked up to a computer.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” said Chris Bendon, director of Aspen’s Community Development Department, noting that those who participated did so despite the lure of a clear-sky powder day in at least one instance.

Councilwoman Jackie Kasabach and planning and zoning member L.J. Erspamer both reported that the “clickerfest” drew what Erspamer called “really an older crowd.”

“You have to remember, we’re an aging community,” Mayor Mick Ireland said.

The compiled answers from the “clickerfest” indicated that more than 67 percent of the participants were between 45 and 74 years old.

Among the results was an indication that residents overwhelmingly believe the city and county should “become a center for innovation in green design, energy efficiency, renewable technologies and national environmental policies” as the best way to diversify the local economy

Participants thought local government should concentrate on quality, rather than quantity, in producing affordable housing for the working class, and that the housing should be built wherever it can be built, without regard to whether it is inside the city limits or not.

A majority of those who took part in the “clickerfest” felt the city should consider preserving structures from Aspen’s post-war history, but also felt that there should not be an annual limit on the number of homes that are demolished and replaced.

The other effort was a more traditional “random” survey that was mailed by a consultant to some 3,200 residents, culled from either Pitkin County voter registration lists or the county assessor’s records.

The consultant, Linda Venturoni, said she got 534 surveys back, for a response rate of more than 18 percent.

Her results jibed with many of the results from the “clickerfest,” and also can be seen on the city-county website.

But where the “clickerfest” results are in numerical graph form only, Venturoni’s use Adobe Flash Player technology to create multilevel readouts.

These include interactive pages that allow a reader to click on a certain issue reflected within a question and compare the answers of four different groups of residents ” full-time homeowners, second-home owners, “all homeowners” (meaning the two together) and “voter.”

There also are cross-tabulations that permit a viewer to learn how the results vary by neighborhood, by length of residency in the area, and by housing status ” free-market or deed-restricted.

Respondents generally continued to support the goals and precepts of the Aspen Area Community Plan, Venturoni told officials.

But there are differences.

For instance, her survey shows that, given a chance to decide how government funds should be spent, most in the “voter” category would concentrate on affordable housing, whereas the “homeowners” would spend their top dollar on parks, open space and trails.

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