Debate over AACP process persists | AspenTimes.com

Debate over AACP process persists

Andre SalvailThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Councilman Steve Skadron’s belief that Aspen council members should adopt the new community plan in the form in which the city Planning and Zoning Commission approved it last month failed to win support during a work session Tuesday evening.The Aspen Area Community Plan is a document to guide future city and county government decisions on growth and development, transportation, the environment, historic preservation and other important community matters. For nearly three years, the Aspen and Pitkin County planning commissions – with guidance from city and county planners and input from the community – have been gathering input and working to rewrite the plan, last revised in 2000.Four members of the city’s P&Z have signed a letter asking the council to adopt the plan in its current form. But city planners have identified various sections of the document for further review, and the council’s changes could result in a departure from the P&Z’s intent.”Both the county and the city P&Zs executed their mission, following the direction given by this council, and I think we should respect that outcome,” Skadron told Mayor Mick Ireland and councilmen Derek Johnson and Adam Frisch. Councilman Torre is on vacation.Skadron, a former P&Z member, pointed out that the AACP revision was completed in mid-November after almost three years of group meetings and surveys to gather input from residents, P&Z research, writing sessions and revisions. All of the P&Z meetings to discuss and rewrite the document were open to the public and many citizens’ suggestions following the release of the first draft in November 2010 have been incorporated.”Any citizen could come at any time, to any meeting … and say what’s on their mind,” Skadron said. “Why does that not have value?””I think to have P&Z just stamp it and send it on its way is shortsighted,” Johnson replied. “That’s not, what I believe, we promised the community.”Skadron said he would be offended by any suggestion that the community hasn’t had the opportunity to weigh in on the plan already.”The P&Zs are members of the community who volunteered to go through his process,” he said. “It isn’t some isolated and secret committee, tucked away, with private time in some hidden room.It’s time to get this done and move on,” Skadron added.The meeting concluded with Ireland, Johnson and Frisch agreeing to hold a joint meeting with the city P&Z to discuss the plan and the process. The meeting date has not been set but it likely will occur in January, said Jessica Garrow, city long-range planner.She and Community Development Director Chris Bendon want council members to look at language choices in various sections of the document. For example, there’s a passage on housing locations and the recommended size of homes that needs further attention, she said.”The whole idea is just to start the discussion and make sure the plan is reflective of community sentiment,” Garrow said. “There’s the question of whether council should review it and make substantive changes, or if they should simply pass it along and move directly into making code changes [that reflect the plan’s intent].”Garrow said it would be unusual to hold a view that a community plan, projecting the community’s vision for the next decade, can be reviewed by everyone except the council, the city’s primary policy-making entity.”We’re going to get the P&Z in a room and talk about this,” Ireland said. “We’ll have five people on the council then, and we’ll decide if they want to go through all of the proposed changes – or not.”The mayor described city and county P&Z members, who are volunteers, as “saintly” for the hard work and long hours they’ve put into rewriting the AACP. “I think the public has done a lot and that Steve’s comments are apropos,” Ireland said. “But that doesn’t mean that there’s not another side to this and that we shouldn’t hear it, and we will.”He said some of the changes suggested by city planning staff are critical “and some of them are different ways of saying the same thing.”Former Mayor Helen Klanderud said Wednesday that more council review and public hearings would be appropriate. However, she said the discussions shouldn’t run past the early part of 2012.Klanderud and others representing the business community, including the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, lobbied earlier this year for changes to ensure that the document would not take a negative tone toward future growth and development opportunities.”I don’t know if the AACP needs to be tweaked,” she said. “The issue seems to be whether the council should accept the decision of the P&Z, or whether it can make some changes. And that’s an age-old dilemma: Why would people serve on volunteer boards if you never accept their decisions? But I don’t think you’re obligated to.”The buck stops with the City Council,” Klanderud continued. “And if the City Council genuinely believes that something is not in the best interest of the community, I think that it has the right not to accept something as it is.”asalvail@aspentimes.com