Clock ticking on Aspen ballot initiative
The Aspen Times
Two weeks from today, political activist Bert Myrin will know whether his ballot initiative, which seeks to strip the Aspen City Council of its ability to grant land-use variances to developers, is headed for a showdown in May’s election.
Myrin and four others will need to garner petition signatures from 5 percent of the city of Aspen’s registered voters, or roughly 300 people, by Feb. 4. Myrin said the proposed Home Rule Charter amendment will be crafted similarly to 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.
As proposed in Aspen, any council-approved variance on height, floor area, housing and parking would be subject to a public vote. Myrin had initially considered drafting language that would allow variances no greater than 5 percent beyond zoning limits.
“What that would effectively do is upzone the entire town by 5 percent because (developers) would ask for that new, higher amount,” Myrin said Tuesday. “There’s no one that comes in and asks for less than the most they can get.”
Recently, Councilman Adam Frisch suggested that the city reach out to Myrin to see if the two sides can craft language or reach a solution together, a suggestion Mayor Steve Skadron agreed with. Community Development Director Chris Bendon said Tuesday that his office has communicated with Myrin, stating that the city is prepared to review a draft.
Similarly, Myrin said if Community Development has language that it has been working on, he’s open to reading it and getting it to mesh with his. However, with two weeks until deadline, he said he’s focused on his own document.
“If they haven’t spent two months doing it, if they want to start the conversation now, that’s not going to work,” Myrin said. “That’s why we’re working with the (Clerk’s Office). This is more about putting it in the voters’ hands rather than putting it in the city’s hands.”
Myrin will need signatures from four others in his statement of intent to the city, which would kick off the petition drive. He said he doesn’t have specific residents in mind, though former Mayor Mick Ireland has been outspoken in favor of the charter amendment.
“I’m going to need all the help I can get,” Myrin said. “I never go into these things thinking I’m going to succeed. I always work as hard as I can to make it work. So my confidence is really dependent on the community.”
In the past, Frisch has expressed reservations about Myrin’s proposal, equating it to a mob-ocracy where the town distributes electronic-voting clickers every time there is a land-use application. Though Skadron has said Myrin’s proposal would curtail the same debate council has over and over, he’s not in favor if it’s so restrictive that it freezes development in Aspen.
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