City to weigh hours for offseason construction
The Aspen Times
Increasing offseason construction hours in hopes of shortening the total time for redevelopment projects is a concept the Aspen City Council will likely consider this month as officials look for ways to lessen construction impacts in the downtown core.
This and other ideas were kicked around Wednesday at City Hall when Mayor Steve Skadron hosted a meeting with Engineering Department officials, development professionals and local residents. Construction is currently allowed within city limits from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Assistant City Manager Barry Crook, who helped moderate the discussion, said there has been feedback from the contracting community that says longer hours would help shorten the overall timeline.
Many who attended the meeting were unaware of the construction schedule, and Aspen resident Bert Myrin claimed that some of the city’s police officers are not up to date. He argued that construction in Aspen is constant no matter what and that the only way to mitigate it is by limiting the hours to a reasonable window.
“Extending the hours to 8 p.m. or 12 hours a day isn’t going to solve the problem,” he said. “The problem needs to be solved by keeping those hours in a normal time frame.”
Resident Mike Maple, whose office is above an ongoing construction project outside the Grog Shop, disagreed. He claimed that crews below him have been working two to four hours a day four days a week. Criticizing the project as mismanaged and unreasonably lengthy, Maple said projects that go on forever have a larger impact than longer offseason hours might.
“I would rather have them work five days a week and 10 hours a day than four days a week and eight hours a day,” he said.
Steve Saunders, a contracting professional with Well Hung Cabinetry, said he sympathizes with neighbors.
“I wouldn’t want me next door, either,” he said. “But we’re here to stay.”
He added that they are the ones who build Aspen’s houses and stores, and he argued his industry is already on a tight leash from the city. Tom Marshall, a 50-year resident and general contractor, detailed the city permitting process between crane, parking and city-department notification requirements, calling the system “too cumbersome.”
“Government solving problems by making more laws doesn’t seem to work,” Marshall said.
He suggested that the city have one point of contact for contractors, a change that City Engineer Trish Aragon said officials are moving toward with a new software system. Crook said the aim is to have a single point of contact within six months.
Saunders also took issue with the city’s “no construction” schedule, which includes Thanksgiving Day, Christmas through New Year’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, Food & Wine Classic weekend, Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day weekend.
“My mortgage doesn’t stop,” he said, adding that the hours are also truncated.
Myrin said that one of the problems right now is that the burden is on neighbors to make sure contractors are following the rules. The onus, he said, should be on the contractor. He suggested sound and video equipment to track decibel levels at construction sites. He also said the city should be posting its construction hours at each site so passers-by can know if crews are breaking the law.
Starting this winter, the council will consider a number of redevelopment proposals, from the Sky Hotel to developer Mark Hunt’s projects to the Molly Gibson Lodge.
“It’s becoming apparent to me that the development cycle in town isn’t ending,” Skadron said. “It isn’t as if we get one building built and then we’re done. We’re in this kind of endless cycle of new development and construction.”
A council work session is scheduled for Nov. 25 to begin developing a potential plan. Aragon said her office will explore which items can be implemented immediately and which are longer-term. Other areas of interest include visual impacts, pacing of construction, noise impacts on residential areas, size and duration of parking, and use of public rights of way.
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A ski season surrounded with uncertainty kicks off on Wednesday. The six inches of new snowfall Tuesday will allow opening of an additional 62 acres on Aspen Mountain, bringing opening-day total to about 160 acres.