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Aspen shaking free of its rules

Janet Urquhart

Aspen is poised to ease up on the rules that apply to outdoor food vending this summer in its ongoing effort to loosen up on regulations and enliven the downtown core in the process.An emergency ordinance, scheduled to go before the City Council tonight, would let merchants sell food without, for example, providing affordable housing to offset the impacts of the modest operation.The latest move comes after the owner of Gracy’s consignment store was informed she’d have to provide an affordable housing unit in order to put up a small operation to sell soda, coffee, pastries and such in the store’s subterranean courtyard off the Cooper Avenue mall. The expansion is considered commercial growth under the city’s land-use code.”We had already paid a lot just to get the license and the food inspection and all that,” said Gracy’s owner Karen Carner.Carner was advised she could seek a variance from the housing requirement – for a $1,300 fee – and that the request would get on a Planning and Zoning Commission agenda for consideration in August.Gracy’s would like to show movies in the courtyard, host square dancing and other activities, and was seeking the vending operation to help offset the costs, according to Brad Corner, Karen’s husband.Brad wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper questioning the bureaucratic and costly red tape a local merchant faces in an attempt to add some vitality to the downtown core, which happens to be one of the city’s oft-stated goals.”I just did it out of frustration,” he said of the letter. “I didn’t expect to get any results or anything.”But a city official paid a visit to Gracy’s after the letter was published, and the emergency ordinance is apparently the result.”The city really stepped up to the plate and has done a great job of trying to work with us,” he said.The city’s proposed summer-long experiment would allow the sale of soft drinks, snow cones, popcorn and the like without going before a review board for approval, though the vending operation would need an OK from the city’s Environmental Health Department.Outdoor charbroiling over an open flame won’t be permitted under the temporary measure.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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