Community plan might face scrutiny from Aspen council soon
ASPEN – Following a lengthy, tedious and sometimes controversial revision process, the Aspen Area Community Plan is finally getting to the point at which local officials will review and possibly approve it.Work began on the rewrite nearly three years ago, in the fall of 2008, when Aspen and Pitkin County governments began holding small-group meetings to gauge community input on the plan and what it should say. They released a draft late last year, then more community input and numerous revisions followed at the city and county Planning and Zoning Commission level throughout the winter, spring and summer.Also earlier this year, the business community scrutinized certain sections of the plan and complained about various omissions. Politics found their way into the process, with debate during the mayoral and council races over whether the 2011 community plan should be a regulatory or guiding document, or a combination of both.Aspen Chamber Resort Association officials and hospitality industry leaders then began participating in P&Z meetings with the hope that their recommendations would be incorporated. Some were and some weren’t, and now a near-final draft is likely to be available today for public review through the city-county website, http://www.aspenpitkin.com. After reaching the homepage, scroll down and click on the icon for “Aspen Area Community Plan.” At 4:45 p.m. Tuesday at Aspen City Hall, council members are expected to discuss the document informally and perhaps develop a timeline for public hearings and a possible final vote. At the city level, P&Z first must approve the plan and pass it along to the council as a recommendation before the council can officially hold hearings and take action on it. At the county level, the plan is considered an advisory document and needs approval primarily from the county’s P&Z; the Board of County Commissioners then will vote to ratify it.The city P&Z is expected to take action sometime in September, said Jessica Garrow, long-range planner for the city of Aspen. The P&Z is recommending consideration of the document as “guiding,” she said.”The meeting [today] is really just sort of a touch-base meeting; we are going to provide council with the latest version of the draft and go over one of the chapters to give them an idea of formatting and how to read the plan,” Garrow said. “Then we are going to talk about how they would like to proceed with the review for adoption.”At one point in January, planners slated final approval by the city and county for April. The timeline has been adjusted a few times since because of various delays involving the P&Zs – including summer vacations and health issues – and now they expect final approval in October or later, depending on how council members react to the new draft.In a memorandum to the council, Garrow listed a few discussion points for Tuesday’s meeting:• What kind of review process would City Council like? One option is to take four to five meetings to review the document with a focus on specific issues or chapters but not go through the document line by line. Another option is to review the document chapter by chapter, which could require an estimated 15 to 20 meetings.• What kind of timeline would council like to see? With 2012 budget discussions coming up there are not many available work sessions. Is council interested in working on the community plan while also working on the budget? Would council like to wait to review the document until after budget review?• Does council want to hold special meetings to review the community plan? The plan is a large document, and there are many members of the public interested in providing comments. It might be difficult to fit regular business and the plan into the same meetings due to the large scope and detail of the plan. • How would City Council like to work with county commissioners during the adoption phase? It may be beneficial to have City Council and the commissioners reviewing the document together to ensure consistency in the plan. A joint meeting of council members and commissioners on Sept. 20 is a possibility.Former Mayor Helen Klanderud, an ACRA board member, was one of the people who attended P&Z meetings in late spring and early summer with the goal of getting some of the business community’s recommendations incorporated into the plan.Klanderud said business interests appeared to make some progress at those meetings, but that she hasn’t seen the final product yet. She said business leaders likely will provide more input during the City Council’s public hearings on the topic.Problems that ACRA identified earlier this year included a lack of recognition of Aspen’s role as a destination resort community; a negative tone toward development in the document; a belief that the study relied too heavily on outdated economic data; and language that endorsed new lodging developments that would offer inexpensive hotel email@example.com
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