Council dumps moratorium, cuts permits
A proposed six-month moratorium on some single-family home and duplex building projects died Tuesday night with a 4-1 City Council vote.But council cut in half the number of annual permits for free-market residential projects. The vote on that emergency ordinance was unanimous.The land-use code had allowed construction of 37 free-market residential units with city limits every year. The measure approved Tuesday cut that number to 18. Thirty-six free-market residential units were built within city limits last year.Council on Monday passed on first reading both emergency ordinances, which community development director Chris Bendon presented in response to the record number of building applications Aspen now faces.
The moratorium would have halted single-family and duplex projects that tear down existing structures and replace them with new homes. It was proposed because that type of development is not subject to rigid planning staff reviews that apply to almost all other types of development within the city.Because it was an emergency ordinance, there was no official public comment period, but Mayor Helen Klanderud did allow some audience members to speak. Most of the comments on both measures centered on the effects they would have on people’s building plans and people’s livelihoods.Several members of the city’s planning commission also expressed frustration about not having been notified in advance of the proposed emergency ordinances.”Such is the nature of emergency ordinances,” Klanderud responded.Most of the criticism focused on the proposed six-month moratorium. Several people said such a moratorium would screw up a lot of people’s immediate development plans and the lives of many people who make a living in the development industry.
Eric Cohen told the council he was “shocked and saddened” that the council would even consider a moratorium when such a decision would hurt so many people who planned to upgrade their housing this construction season.”There will be two effects from this proposed moratorium,” Cohen said. “First will be that real estate prices will soar. Second, it would have a significant impact on those who work in the development industry in this city.”Several community members said such a moratorium would ruin their plans to replace their existing housing this summer.There was also considerable opposition from community members on the amount of time it would take for an appeal.In the end, the evening’s reddest faces did not appear on audience members, but rather within the council.
When Councilman Jack Johnson asked for specifics about what modifications Councilman Torre was proposing to the moratorium, Torre said he did not have any specific suggestions. That prompted a verbal exchange between the two that lasted until after the meeting adjourned.Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss, who cast the lone vote in favor of the moratorium, said, “I sometimes can’t believe what I hear from this council.”In the end, Rachel Richards moved to adopt the ordinance, with Torre seconding the motion, though both voted against it.Klanderud said she hoped the community could come together to address the concerns that motivated Bendon to propose the moratorium in the first place.
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Aspen School District’s younger students will return to class next week, but that’s not the case for those in the seventh through 12th grade, who will continue to take courses from home.