City of Aspen weighs variance control
The Aspen Times
On Monday, the Aspen City Council will decide whether it wants the city to craft its own language addressing land-use variance control, which could potentially give Aspen voters two ballot options on the issue in May.
On Friday, resident Bert Myrin was soliciting signatures for his resident-led ballot petition, which seeks to strip the council of its ability to grant variances on height, floor area, affordable housing and parking. As proposed, any council-granted variance would be subject to Aspen-voter approval. Myrin and four co-signers have until Feb. 4 to garner 304 signatures, or 5 percent of the city’s electorate. If the group reaches deadline with a shortage of signatures, it will have 15 additional days to solicit names.
Community Development Director Chris Bendon said Monday’s council item will give officials the chance to understand what Myrin is proposing and offer opinions on whether the city should craft its own Home Rule Charter amendment. If both questions advance to May’s ballot, whichever one garners more “yes” votes would be implemented. If the majority of the electorate votes “no” on both questions, Aspen’s land-use process would not change.
The council will be asked whether it wants to consider language similar to Myrin’s proposal, which would remove the council’s right to grant variances in any capacity, or if it wants to consider a cap on variance requests, which would allow a level of flexibility on requests.
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“So, (the council’s) option is to see what happens with (Myrin’s) charter amendment, propose their own charter amendment, direct us to make changes to the land-use code that synchronize with (Myrin’s) proposed charter amendment,” Bendon said.
On Thursday, Bendon, senior planner Jessica Garrow and City Attorney Jim True met with Myrin and former Mayor Mick Ireland. Myrin said the conversation was productive and his charter amendment now reads better, but he claimed none of the substance of what was proposed was altered.
“It was a good discussion with Mick and Bert,” Bendon said. “They were receptive to the suggestions we had to eliminate some future (glitches) with the language that they had originally proposed. So that was a good, productive discussion.”
Per petition guidelines, Myrin included four co-signers in his packet to the city. They are listed as Cavanaugh O’Leary, Michael Behrendt, Catalina Cruz and Kallen von Renkl. Myrin said the group will solicit signatures outside City Market everyday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. until Feb. 4.
The goal of the charter amendment, Myrin said, is to make Aspen’s land-use code consistent so that it can be applied to every development proposal, eliminating the council’s need to negotiate with each individual applicant.
“I’m hopeful that it reduces a lot of tension in town and these midnight meetings that (the community) has to go to,” Myrin said. “The divisiveness is crazy.”
The proposed charter amendment was partly inspired by legislation adopted recently in Telluride, where a resident petition drive began over fears that big development was threatening town character. In November, the Telluride Town Council adopted the petition and stripped itself of the right to grant general waivers to developers.
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