City Council wants crack at Aspen community plan |

City Council wants crack at Aspen community plan

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Discussion at Tuesday’s Aspen City Council work session centered on whether to tinker with the Aspen Area Community Plan or leave it as is.

In the end, three council members – Torre, Derek Johnson and Adam Frisch – decided to continue along the scheduled process of weighing various aspects of the plan, discussing suggested staff changes and holding more public hearings to gain public input.

Mayor Mick Ireland and Councilman Steve Skadron dissented with their three colleagues on the primary issue – evaluating the plan with an eye toward revisions – saying the document already had been through an arduous three-year public process.

The issue of whether to keep the community plan in the form that city and Pitkin County planning and zoning commissioners recently adopted arose at a council meeting in December. Many commissioners, concerned about “red-lined changes” by city planners, signed a letter that asked the council to adopt the plan in the state in which the planning commissioners finalized it.

Tuesday’s meeting at Aspen City Hall was a joint session with commissioners, many of whom spoke about how the document is a reflection of the community’s wishes. To change it – in essence, to make it a “City Council plan” – would be to dismiss years of painstaking research, crafting and revisions that the planning and zoning commissioners undertook with the community’s intent in mind, some commissioners suggested.

They asked the council to take up the business of changes to city code so that municipal laws conform to the revised plan, noting that the commissioners adopted the plan as “advisory” and not “regulatory.” The plan itself, a road map designed to help officials make future decisions on development and other important community issues, won’t carry any weight without revisions to city codes to carry out the document’s intent.

City Planning and Zoning Commissioner Stan Gibbs opened the meeting with a statement that he said the other commissioners supported:

“We feel that we have adopted an Aspen Area Community Plan and that it should stand on its own merits,” he said. “It informs your discussions about changes to land-use code and other city issues. It does not define policy – it proposes policy decisions.”

Ireland was in general agreement with the planning commissioners but offered a compromise: He said the plan should remain intact as the commissioners adopted it, with council comments added as an appendix.

“When people pick up the plan later, they can say, ‘This is what the (commissioners) recommended; this is what the council thought of that recommendation.’ We won’t have to go back to the (commissioners) and say, ‘Why don’t you do it this way?'” Ireland said.

While the council did not summarily reject Ireland’s idea, Johnson said the public has been told all along that the council would weigh in on the community plan and garner public input. And Frisch, first elected in May, said that as a new councilman he’s hardly been involved in the process and hasn’t had any opportunities to meet with the planning commissioners to discuss the document or the reasons behind some of the decisions that shaped it.

Gibbs said he wasn’t against the idea of a council supplement to the plan, partly because future councils might have different ideas about how to use the document.

Though the council did not take an official vote, Torre served as the tiebreaker amid a 2-2 split. He said he didn’t know if any parts of the plan actually needed to be revised but that there would be no harm in the council going through it and taking public comments.

An ongoing issue deals with a potential lack of conformity between the city’s plan and the county’s document. The city and county planning commissions passed the plan together, and the Pitkin County commissioners are expected to ratify it without asking for changes. If the City Council revises the plan, it could conflict with the county’s version of the document, a scenario that was not envisioned three years ago when the planning commissions were given the task of creating it jointly.

The council will hold more meetings on the plan later this month and encourages the public to attend. For information about meeting times and dates, email city long-range planner Jessica Garrow at

Meanwhile, those interested in reviewing the plan can visit

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