Could this be the end for moratorium?
January 23, 2007
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN As the Feb. 28 deadline for Aspen’s building moratorium looms, the City Council is discussing options for adopting new codes, including extending the moratorium or adopting the new regulations by emergency ordinance.The council faces several problems, though, particularly relating to public input.Law requires the city to give advance public notice of potential ordinances, including the language of the codes it might be adopting. The council will meet again Monday to discuss the moratorium.To meet the deadline, that notice would have to be printed in local newspapers by Feb. 9, but the Community Development staff likely won’t have it ready by then – although it will be ready for review by the council’s Feb. 12 meeting, they say.That leaves the council with two options: extend the moratorium by a month to allow proper notification and more time for public input, or adopt the new regulations through an emergency ordinance, like the one the council approved to initiate the moratorium.Planner Jennifer Phelan said an emergency ordinance doesn’t require the city to include the full language of the ordinance in public notices, so the council could announce public hearings by Feb. 9, but anyone interested in the specific language would have to get it online or at City Hall.Lag timeThe council might need to extend the moratorium or use the emergency ordinance anyway to avoid a flood of applications under the old code during a lag period once it lifts the moratorium.Regular ordinances go into effect 30 days after the council adopts them. That means that if the council adopts new regulations Feb. 28 without extending the moratorium for 30 days, the old codes would be in effect for another month. By extending the moratorium through March, the council could meet its deadline of Feb. 28 for adopting new codes but effectively freeze applications and permits for another month. It also would have some flexibility to continue to gather public input during the extra time, if necessary.If the council adopts the new code through emergency action Feb. 28, however, the codes take effect immediately.Public inputBoth the council and members of the public appeared to favor any action that allows for more public input, as did Dylan Johns, one of several Planning and Zoning commissioners at Tuesday’s work session.Johns said that after the city adopted its infill codes, the biggest complaint was that the public didn’t have enough opportunity to comment.”From what I’ve been hearing over and over again, that’s the thing,” he said. “There’s just going to be a lot of public outcry if it goes into effect all of a sudden.”Mayor Helen Klanderud balked at the idea the public didn’t have a chance to comment in four to five years of discussions on infill, but she, too, agreed that the council should ensure there is adequate time for public comment before the council adopts new codes.Councilman Jack Johnson suggested severing pace-of-construction issues from the rest of the topics covered under the moratorium and adopting them sooner to allow projects currently in the pipeline to prepare for the summer construction season.Planning consultant Sunny Vann seemed to support that idea, saying that issues regarding pace have a direct effect on the schedules of projects that have already earned approvals.Tim Semrau, however, stressed the need for adequate public input over a speedy end to the moratorium.”What you’re trying to change is largely a mystery,” he said.Council members, in general, appeared amenable to the idea of separating pace issues from other moratorium subjects, while ensuring the public has a chance to comment on everything.”Since we’re going through such massive changes, we really have to make sure we have adequate public input,” said Councilwoman Jasmine Tygre, who joined the City Council Jan. 9. The council didn’t make any decisions regarding extensions or how to pass the new regulations, but Community Development Director Chris Bendon said his staff would prepare an ordinance for an extension if necessary.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org