Demo permits for Aspen homes to be limited to a half dozen a year
To slow the pace of unprecedented growth in the residential real estate market, Aspen City Council agrees to limit demolition activity
Aspen City Council agreed Monday to limit the number of homes that can be demolished within city limits in a year to six.
The new policy, which was agreed on by the majority of council during a work session, is in response to the unprecedented pace of residential development in town and the impacts it creates on the community.
The limitation on demolition permits will be included in an ordinance that will be introduced on first reading to council June 14 with a final vote expected June 28.
The regulations contained in the ordinance have been in the making for five months, since council in December passed a six-month emergency moratorium on new residential development, citing massive quality-of-life impacts to traffic, affordable housing, environmental conditions and other issues that are detailed in the Aspen Area Community Plan, which is a guiding document that officials base their decisions on.
Council last month extended the moratorium to Aug. 8 so that staff could continue to work on policy and formulate regulations based on public feedback.
Councilman Ward Hauenstein said Monday that he favored limiting demolition permits to five a year.
“We are here because we feel it’s out of control, and I think that to make some kind of meaningful adjustment requires meaningful action,” he said.
Councilman Skippy Mesirow supported the limit of five while his colleagues Mayor Torre and Councilmembers John Doyle and Rachel Richards landed on six.
There is a recent trend showing a significant increase in demolition projects — 15 were issued last year and an average of 6.5 were given each year for the past eight, according to Ben Anderson, the city’s principal planner.
Under the new rule, land use applications would be accepted on a first come, first served basis and entered into the queue once determined complete.
Central to staff’s proposed response to concerns about the pace and scale of single-family and duplex development is the use of the city’s long-standing growth management quota system to regulate projects that engage in the demolition and redevelopment of a property.
Currently there are 19 residential development allotments and under current code, they are only necessary for new subdivisions or multifamily units.
In staff’s view, residential projects that trigger demolition are very impactful to neighbors, to Aspen’s physical infrastructure and environment, and to the capacity at the Pitkin County Landfill, according to Anderson.
“They generate a significant employee demand and often, these projects transform the scope and scale of the existing home into a new residence that is fundamentally different, both in form and function, from the previous structure,” he wrote in a memo to council.
Council also agreed Monday to allow demolition projects to be reviewed administratively by staff, rather than the current system of by right and straight to building permit.
Staff would review a land-use application and match it against required residential demolition and redevelopment standards.
Those standards include waste diversion; reporting of carbon usage of the building process and materials for a project, as well as the future energy use of a home; ensuring homes are designed and built for potential future conversion to 100% electric and the accommodation of on-site photo-voltaic and battery storage systems.
Projects also would be subject to a higher expectation in contributing to local water quality through implementation of non-structural best management practices.
“When we talk to the development community, they were very comfortable with setting the standards high but they wanted it to be very objective,” Anderson told council.
Implementing the standards would be a starting point that will be more fully built out, defined and updated over time, according to Anderson.
Council also agreed to update affordable housing mitigation requirements on the entirety of a new home.
“These four levers together that we can make policy adjustments to are really about trying to get an assessment of what a unit of affordable housing costs and what the responsibility is for development towards that cost,” Anderson said.
Combined, the policies agreed on by council seek to discourage demolition, but if it does happen, the resulting redevelopment will be high performing and be better aligned with the AACP and Aspen’s climate action goals and commitments, according to Anderson.
Torre said he is proud of the work Community Development staff has done since the moratorium began.
“When we took this bite of the elephant over six months ago, or five months ago, it was daunting,” he said. “You guys have done such a great job of making it digestible and bringing us back really everything that we’ve been asking for. …
“What we are doing is for the betterment of the community, and I think our community recognizes that as well.”
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