City braces for infill referendum
Aspen Times Staff Writer
With Aspen’s proposed infill legislation in danger of being talked to death, the City Council agreed Tuesday to take one last stab at moving at least some components of the zoning package forward.
To do otherwise, despite the likelihood of a citizen-initiated referendum on the zoning amendments, would be a “cop-out,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “We can’t ignore this proposal.
“If there’s a referendum, so be it,” she added.
What to do about the infill review, a process that has bogged down before a divided council that includes two new members who joined the review midstream, was the final discussion topic at a two-day council retreat at The Aspen Institute.
Klanderud expressed her frustration with the ongoing review of infill.
“I don’t feel we’re making any progress,” she said. “I know it’s frustrating to me … I know it’s frustrating to any number of members of the community.”
Councilwoman Rachel Richards suggested the council come up with the best set of proposals it can and consider putting it before voters, since infill’s opponents most certainly will anyway.
“Part of our discussion should be, should we put the infill package on the ballot or wait for the referendum,” she said. “I think it’s fairly inevitable that it’s going to a referendum.”
Klanderud, however, suggested any discussion by the council to put infill before voters is premature.
“Just because it’s a difficult decision, it doesn’t mean it should be on the ballot,” she said.
But Councilman Terry Paulson, who has made no secret of his opposition to most of infill’s controversial aspects, accused the council of trying to “ram something through” without asking the public.
“We may vote to defeat it,” Klanderud countered.
Whatever the council decides to do, it needs to do it soon, said Councilman Tim Semrau.
“We have a responsibility to stop the hemorrhaging,” he said. “My observation at this point is the hemorrhaging has gotten pretty severe.”
A majority of the council had reached agreement on perhaps 90 percent of the infill proposals before the May election brought new members Richards and Torre onto the council, Semrau noted. He suggested they both go through the proposals and sign off on what they can accept. If the list of remaining points of contention is short, the council can continue its work on those issues, he said.
“What are you comfortable with and what aren’t you?” Semrau asked.
“It’s not a matter of what I’m comfortable with,” Richards responded. “It’s what the town is comfortable with and what will work.”
Ultimately, council members agreed they should all make a written list of what they want to adopt quickly and what they can’t.
Infill, a complex package of zoning amendments to all of the city’s zoning districts, has been in the works for more than two years. The proposals were drafted by a citizen task force, then reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, which recommended the council adopt them. The legislation has been in the council’s lap since early this year.
The proposals focus additional development in the town’s core – filling in Aspen, rather than outward sprawl – and amending the city’s review process and mitigation requirements to make redevelopment and new development feasible for private property owners. Building heights have proven one of the more controversial aspects of the legislation.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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