City opens door for Red Onion |

City opens door for Red Onion

ASPEN Aspen’s City Council has opened the door just a crack for some downtown businesses to escape a moratorium on changing interior spaces or uses.The council voted 3-2 Monday night to adopt an amendment to the moratorium, which it enacted in December.One of the primary purposes of the moratorium was to give the council time to evaluate whether to create guidelines for preserving potentially historic downtown businesses or building interiors. Fears the city was about to lose the long-established Red Onion restaurant helped fuel the council’s decision to freeze activity on interior building renovations in the commercial core.After passing an emergency ordinance to enact the moratorium, the council learned of plans to keep the Red Onion afloat. But the new plans could be thwarted by the same moratorium the council passed to help save it.Monday night, several council members were concerned the amendment to the moratorium could undermine the effect of any final decisions to come out of the moratorium. The council has yet to begin discussions about exactly what they hope to accomplish and how.Councilwoman Jasmine Tygre said it was “entirely premature to allow exemptions” when the council might learn in future discussions that what they’re exempting now is exactly what they want to protect down the road.”I think we’ve got everything backwards,” she said.Councilman Jack Johnson agreed, especially since the council hasn’t begun discussion yet.But Councilman Torre said the amendment offered “a very narrow crack of exemptions.”Mayor Helen Klanderud agreed, saying only a handful of businesses downtown could qualify for the exemptions – perhaps the Red Onion alone.”Let’s be right out about it,” she said. “Let’s call this the Red Onion ordinance if you want.Tygre balked at the idea of adopting an amendment for the benefit of one business, and she and Johnson remained concerned that the amendment’s vague language could open the door wider than just a crack.”I think we have to be careful not to be so precise that we actually kill what we’re trying to preserve,” Klanderud said.Ultimately, Klanderud, Torre and Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss won out, and the council passed the amendment.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is

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