Council adopts Aspen community plan |

Council adopts Aspen community plan

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Finally.

After three to four years of work involving numerous surveys, endless amounts of research, tedious debates and countless public meetings at a cost of more than half a million dollars, Aspen has a new, and what some would say improved, community plan.

The baby was born shortly after 10 p.m. when the Aspen City Council adopted the plan following a 50-minute discussion in which many council members expressed their displeasure with it. But it passed unanimously, with many council members saying they were exasperated by the lengthy process of creating the document, which turned out to be a complete rewrite instead of what was initially intended to be a revision of the 2000 plan.

The city Planning and Zoning Commission, which wrote the Aspen Area Community Plan in conjunction with the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission and city and county Community Development staff, adopted the plan in mid-November. Shortly before the council vote, Jessica Garrow, the city’s long-range planner, said the plan largely reflects the wishes of the community, obtained in recent years through numerous group gatherings with local residents as well as public surveys.

“I think that this is a good document,” Garrow said. “Nobody is 100 percent happy with it, including staff, including (Planning and Zoning), including you, but I think that it’s a good reflection of the community discussion, the community dialogue that we had on these very important issues.”

What follows now, Garrow said, is the council’s task of working with city staff and Planning and Zoning to change land-use and other municipal codes so that they conform to the community plan’s intent.

Councilman Adam Frisch, while praising the hard work of the commissions and government staff, lamented the length of time it took to rewrite the plan as well as the process itself.

“This should be about ‘what do we want,’ and we got into a bunch of ‘how do we do it.’ And ‘how do we do it’ has mucked this whole process up, I think,” Frisch said.

The revision, and the debate over the plan in the last year, has gotten bogged down over many details, such as whether to make the plan a “regulatory document,” as it was in 1993 and 2000, versus a “guiding document,” which is how the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that the council adopt it. The process also has been tied up in exhaustive discussions over language and proposed action items that will be used to shape future code changes.

For instance, before he would vote on the plan Monday night, Councilman Derek Johnson successfully got three other councilmen to amend a word choice. He had issues with the term “community work-force housing” and wanted it changed to “affordable housing.” Only Councilman Torre refused to go along with the amendment.

The document is designed to be a road map on which the city and the county can base future decisions on development and other matters. The plan already has been adopted at the county level by the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission. Issues addressed in the plan’s nine chapters include growth, transportation, the environment, the health and welfare of children and longtime residents, historic preservation, parks and recreation and other important aspects of community life.

Frisch said the community plan would have benefited from a “less academic approach” and more input from people with practical experience.

“It sounds like the lesser of two evils is to support this after everything that’s been done and get on with it and push it aside,” he said. “In my mind, it’s (Planning and Zoning)’s community plan, not mine.”

“From the beginning of this, I have not agreed with making this a ‘guiding document,'” Torre said. “I felt like it should have maintained regulatory status. It should have strengthened the code and we should still do that. I don’t feel like we had the oversight over it that we thought we might, or at least participation in it.”

Councilman Steve Skadron, a former Planning and Zoning commissioner, said the document could not be made any better with further tweaking by the council. Months ago, he suggested that it be adopted by the council in the manner that the commission approved it.

In other business, the council gave its blessing to a scaled-down Aspen Walk development proposal.

The Aspen Walk residential redevelopment involves property at 404 Park Ave and 414 Park Circle. Council discussions with the developer over the size and design of the project, which will include 14 affordable-housing and 12 free-market units, have been under way for the past eight months.