Council OKs rules for public projects
The Aspen Times
The Aspen City Council signed off Monday on changes that, in theory, will shorten the approval process for government and quasi-government development projects.
Aspen’s Community Development Department proposed the code amendment so that Aspen’s laws are in line with a Colorado state statute that requires a decision on public projects within 60 days. As initially written, it would have meant any public project left undecided by the council in a 60-day time frame would be deemed approved. This caused concern from resident Marcia Goshorn, who contended that the city was attempting to fast track its own development and subject itself to a lower standard than private development.
After last week’s meeting on the issue, city planners removed the automatic-approval provision, which also would have applied to private development that includes essential public services.
With Monday’s 4-0 approval, the city will still have the right to subject itself to the public-projects review standards. City Manager Steve Barwick told the council it still may want to use it for smaller projects.
“You might use it at some point. You might have small buildings coming through, and you just want to … get it done for some reason,” Barwick said Monday. “But it’s obviously never going to be used for substantial buildings in town.”
The timing of the code amendment was questioned because the city is currently considering a major office-space-needs project that could result in 50,000 to 70,000 square feet of new development. Barwick pointed out last week that the changes will not affect any of the new city buildings coming online.
The code amendment will result in a three-tier system for public projects: administrative, minor and major. A memorandum to the council details “administrative” as simple projects such as trails and accessibility ramps. “Minor” includes remodels, minor expansions and new construction. “Major” is described as “large new construction projects that would benefit from more extensive public exposure and involvement.”
Community Development will decide administrative applications. Council will decide the other two, using one-step approval for minor applications, with optional input from city boards, and two-step review for major applications, which requires input from city boards. The city also reserves the option to include an advisory board, which would be required for private development. In order to participate, a private development must be deemed by the council as having an element that is essential public service. Community Development also will determine this aspect, depending on scope of the project.
Councilman Adam Frisch said the city is trying to make sure the city plays by the same rules as the private sector, adding that the state statute allows for more power in the public sector, which some municipalities want.
“We’re trying to shrink the difference between the process that we operate under and the process that the private sector operates on, and this is kind of what we’re trying to get to, so I’m supportive of where we’re going,” Frisch said.
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