City softens infill plan |

City softens infill plan

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The more controversial aspects of Aspen’s infill legislation were softened Monday, as the City Council dictated a series of amendments to the zoning proposal.

In the rewritten ordinance that comes back to the council on May 12, allowed building heights in various areas of town will be reduced, protected view planes will be restored and the prohibition on homes and duplexes in the lodging and multifamily districts will be gone.

In addition, the council eliminated the prohibition on office uses on the ground floor of the commercial core.

The amendments don’t gut the proposals to the extent they would no longer make sense, according to Chris Bendon, the city planner charged with writing the infill ordinance.

“My role in this thing is to tell them when they’ve taken the tires off the car,” he said. “They haven’t done that. These are all changes that would work.”

The changes were deemed an improvement by a couple of strident critics of the original infill proposal, but didn’t go far enough for others.

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Councilman Terry Paulson urged the council to scrap the legislation, which has been a work in progress for more than two years.

“It should be tabled – maybe forever,” he said.

Aspen can achieve the new development and redevelopment it hopes to foster with infill through its existing zoning code, Paulson argued.

“I hate to say it was a waste of time, but this is nonsense,” he said.

“I’m still not convinced that we need this ordinance,” agreed former Mayor Bill Stirling, though he praised the modifications made by the council last night.

“I think you need to be extremely careful in what you do, so the plan doesn’t create more urbanism, because that’s what people come here to get away from,” he said.

In scaling back the original infill proposals, the council agreed to reinstate the seven protected view planes that currently exist in the land-use code and add a couple of others – the view from Paepcke Park toward Aspen Mountain and the view of Shadow Mountain from Wagner Park. Construction that impedes those views is not allowed without special approval.

“I don’t see why we should limit this to seven,” Paulson said. “You walk around town, there could be 975.”

In the commercial core, the council agreed it should be the city that decides whether a development needs to include an on-site open space, not the developer.

Two citizens in the audience suggested the open area, or pedestrian amenity, should be mandatory, without exception.

The council also dropped the building height for a three-story building from 42 feet to the existing 40-foot limit and eliminated the option for a four-story, 45-foot building. A partial fourth floor, of up to 48 feet, would be possible with special review and approval, and the use of a transferable development right from a historic property.

Historic TDRs, introduced with the infill plan, is an attempt to scale back new development on historic buildings by allowing owners to sell the development right for use elsewhere.

Also in the commercial core, the council agreed to drop the prohibition on office uses, though Paulson voiced support for that element of infill.

A recent influx of offices selling timeshare projects has radically altered the shopping experience on the downtown malls, he noted.

But the city has embraced the development of timeshares to bring people to town, Councilman Tom McCabe pointed out.

“It seems ironic, on the one hand we’re looking to timeshares to save our town, and on the other hand, we want them to do it in an alley or some second-floor office somewhere?” he said.

In other neighborhoods, the council agreed to maintain the 35-foot height limit in the service/commercial/industrial zone district; drop it from the proposed 32 feet to 30 feet for mixed-used buildings in the office district and on Main Street, leaving the residential height limit at 25 feet in those areas; and cut the proposed 35-foot height in the multifamily zone to 30 feet, or 38 feet with special review and a TDR. In the lodge zone, the height limit was ordered dropped from a proposed 42 feet to 30 feet, or 38 with special review and a TDR. It’s currently set at 28 feet.

While the council continued last night’s public hearing to May 12, one or more work sessions may follow that hearing. Council members want to compare the amended infill legislation with the current zoning code.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]