City approves streamlining of publicly built projects
The Aspen City Council has given its final approval to a change in how city-owned projects are reviewed.In the past, when the city acted as both owner and the approving body, only the City Council could give direction on a project before the application appeared in the approval process.Now, the city’s land codes have been revised to allow a joint planning task force to have first crack at shaping a project. This new group will consist of members of the City Council, city planning and zoning commission, housing board, and other pertinent citizens advisory boards.This new system was prompted by criticism, particularly from the P&Z, that the council was determining what it wanted from public projects before the application entered the approval process.”Essentially this came up initially because the City Council was catching a lot of heat along the lines of, `Why go through the fuss if the city’s made its mind up?’ … The whole idea is to not be exclusionary,” said Councilman Tom McCabe during a meeting earlier this week when the process was approved.Meetings by the new advisory group will still be public and public comment will be allowed.”Sometimes there’s a perception of a double standard,” warned Councilman Jim Markalunas. “I just want to make sure projects are scrutinized by the public.”An emphasis was made that the new process will not be “fast tracking” public projects.”Some [Planned Unit Developments] would go through eight steps. This is two,” said city attorney John Worcester. “This allows as many meetings as needed, but when there’s a final decision [from the advisory group], it goes directly to City Council.”The new system may not be any quicker than the old process, where the housing board, P&Z and Historic Preservation Commission separately reviewed projects. But now an application won’t have to repeatedly cycle through the different boards when significant changes are made.”I think it easily cost 25 to 30 percent more at Snyder because a construction season was missed with [the application] ping-ponging back and forth,” said Mayor Rachel Richards.
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