Council work session to tackle Aspen land-use code |

Council work session to tackle Aspen land-use code

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council will meet Tuesday with the goal of outlining priorities for changes to the land-use code and zoning regulations.

In recent years, council members and Aspen residents have deemed certain changes crucial in the wake of city approvals for large development projects that some believe are out of character for the community. Council members have been waiting for the completion of the Aspen Area Community Plan, a guiding document that will be used to shape future decisions on land use and other important community issues, before tackling the code changes that will conform to the plan.

The community plan has been adopted by the Aspen and Pitkin County planning and zoning commissions. It awaits possible City Council approval on Monday, Feb. 27. After its approval, city Community Development staff and council members are expected to dive into the details of code-change proposals, a process that could last several months.

Jessica Garrow, long-range planner for the city, said in a Feb. 13 memorandum that the council’s direction will be sought on how to change the code-amendment process. Currently, code amendments are first reviewed at the Planning and Zoning Commission level and then sent to the council for review and adoption. Sometimes, that process isn’t the most efficient, she suggested.

“Occasionally, staff and (Planning and Zoning) work on the details of a code amendment, but when it is brought forward to City Council, council disagrees with the premise or the purpose of an amendment,” Garrow wrote. In addition, there have been times when the council has asked staff to work on code amendments, but the Planning and Zoning Commission disagrees with the premise and has a difficult time reviewing the proposal.

“This can result in a lot of time spent on code amendments that are not implemented, or it can result in projects getting into the land-use review process before an important code change takes effect,” Garrow wrote.

Following a council decision about process, Garrow suggested that department staff could then go to work on crafting details and specific language for the amendments. There also might be small group meetings “with key interested parties” and relevant boards and committees.

While today’s meeting is being held to garner direction on code-amendment priorities, two more meetings in the near future will deal with related matters. One is the previously mentioned regular council meeting on Feb. 27, which will include a public hearing and possible vote on the community plan. The other is a March 5 work session to prioritize implementation of the community plan as well as proposed code amendments.

Mayor Mick Ireland gave council members and others food for thought in a January memorandum that dealt with ideas surrounding the land-use code.

“Simply put, the mass and scale allowed under the current code is too generous in the downtown, allowing structures of a size that the public does not support,” he said. “This is especially true on the south side of downtown streets, where 40- to 45-foot buildings effectively darken the streets and create an urban feeling that blocks mountain views that the public has become accustomed to enjoying.”

Ireland also wrote that he proposes removing “high-end speculative real estate” from the downtown commercial core by limiting allowed uses to lodging, commercial retail, service businesses, local-serving businesses and affordable housing. He suggested several new guidelines that would effectively limit development of “cold-bed” condominiums, single-family residences and townhomes.

The Monday, Feb. 27 meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. in the council’s chambers in the basement of City Hall at 130 S. Galena St.