Aspen’s future in the hands of residents |

Aspen’s future in the hands of residents

ASPEN ” It’s flown under the radar of the collective citizenry for years but the Aspen Area Community Plan is the principal document that shapes the future of town, and is used by elected officials as a backstop when considering development projects.

Updated about every eight years, the AACP is going through another transition, this time with what’s being called the “Community Vision for the Aspen Area,” which will serve as a blueprint for the next 10 years.

City and county staff are aiming to attract 1,000 people over the course of three meetings this week to help create that vision. The finished product is intended to guide the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County commissioners for the next decade. The document will be relied upon for decisions on issues ranging from housing to managing growth to transportation.

“It’s very aspirational and vision-oriented,” said Jessica Garrow, a planner for the city of Aspen. “It’s a not master plan … but who and what do we want to be in 10 years? What do we aspire to be?”

The City Council in the past year has denied and heavily criticized development projects because they didn’t meet the goals of the AACP. Some of those denials have prompted lawsuits by developers.

The new AACP will serve as a document that can be the basis for changes in the land-use code and other city laws. It’s hoped that the goals laid out in the AACP will better reflect land use regulations, Garrow said.

For instance, there will be a chapter in the updated AACP about managing growth, with specifics about how the character of neighborhoods ought be maintained, and what downtown development should look like.

“We’ll write the plan and then it will be used by department heads, the council and the county commissioners as goal setting opportunities,” Garrow said.

The first Aspen Area Community Plan was adopted in 1993. Seven years later, the 2000 Aspen Area Community Plan was adopted. In 2007, the council and commissioners approved funding for an update of the 2000 AACP and began work on it last year.

Now it’s time for the public to weigh in. Community members are invited to attend gatherings at the St. Regis Ballroom and Aspen High School, where instant voting using wireless keypads will be used.

Keypad voting is a relatively new form of democratic participation, and has been used to gain consensus on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center and to identify strategies to rebuild New Orleans.

When results from the keypad voting are in, they will be considered along with results from a randomly-mailed survey to help generate a draft community vision for the Aspen area. A total of 534 people have mailed in the lengthy survey, which is now being tabulated.

The process of establishing a Community Vision for the Aspen Area is rooted in the idea of direct democracy ” that the broadest cross section of the community should generate a vision for the future rather than professional staff and experts.

The questions posed at this week’s public meetings come from the goals and visions expressed at a series of 11 small group meetings held last fall, when 174 people voiced their thoughts on the future of the Aspen area.

Areas of focus in those meetings included economics, housing, growth management, transportation, the Airport Business Center, the environment and a host of other issues facing Aspen.

Once a community vision is adopted, it will be the job of government officials to implement the visions with more detailed initiatives. That could mean amending land-use codes, changing work programs, adding or subtracting programs and initiatives, or new budgetary priorities.

The City Council and county commissioners, and both city and county planning and zoning commissions, will review and consider the Community Vision for adoption in March and April. That’s another chance for the public to offer their comments and concerns.

No homework is required to attend the upcoming community meetings and the questions will be crafted so that people can respond to them quickly and instinctively. But for those who want to study up, go to

The meetings are from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at the St. Regis, and again from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Another gathering is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31, at Aspen High School. Food will be provided. RSVP and reserve your clicker for one of these meetings at

“We really hope people come to these meetings because this is the document that will shape the next 10 years,” Garrow said. “What happens in the future really depends on what happens at these meetings.”

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