Council should tread lightly with the AACP
December 8, 2011
After nearly three years of surveys, research, meetings, crafting and rewrites, the Aspen Area Community Plan is complete.
Well, sort of: City of Aspen and Pitkin County planning and zoning commissions have handed off the document to the Aspen City Council for another review and final adoption. The council is planning meetings in January to discuss potential changes to the plan and to give the public another opportunity to say what they like, or don’t like, about it.
Thus, what’s been billed for the past couple of years as the “2011 AACP” could end up with “2012” in the name.
There will be other, more substantive, tweaks to the 61-page document (and its 41-page appendix), which generally can be described as a tool that the city and county will use over the next decade to guide policy decisions on development, transportation, the environment and other important facets of community life. City planners want council members to look over various sections of the plan with an eye toward making changes.
As Mayor Mick Ireland put it, some of the recommended changes are “critical,” while others are simply a matter of “wordsmithing.” Then there are items that city planning staff would like to eliminate altogether, such as a vague policy to “ensure that the ultimate population of the Aspen area does not degrade the quality of life for residents and the enjoyment of visitors.” This directive can be implemented, the policy states, “through good land-use planning and sound decision-making.”
If the council wants to take the silly stuff out of the document, that’s fine. And despite the fact that the dozens of Planning and Zoning meetings focusing on the AACP have been open to the public, we see nothing wrong with giving residents and local stakeholders yet another crack at it.
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However, we also would like to encourage council members to partially honor a request from the four members of the city Planning and Zoning who signed a letter earlier this week asking the council to pass the plan in its current state. This can be achieved by a careful fine-tuning of the document without disturbing Planning and Zoning’s intent. A few semantic changes might bring some clarity to the plan; the omission of certain items that state the obvious can improve its readability. But delving any further – into the substance of the plan – would be a case of undoing the commission’s work, which was carefully tailored around community input.
At a recent meeting, Councilman Steve Skadron argued for passing the plan as it stands without dragging out the process any longer. Ireland voiced some of the same sentiments but sensed that two other councilmen want to pursue a more in-depth review. They concluded that it would be wise to meet with Planning and Zoning members in January to iron out some of the issues concerning the plan’s content.
The public can review the plan via the website http://www.aspencommunityvision.com. We urge the public to read through it and voice their opinions to elected officials. At the same time, we’d like to urge council members to complete their work on the document as efficiently as possible, without going beyond the month of January.
Three years of tedious work has already gone into the community plan, and it’s time to stop debating it and start using it.