Developers will have to go green
Developers of new commercial buildings soon will have to prove that their projects meet Aspen’s environmental standards in order to win approval.The City Council on Tuesday directed staff to draft an ordinance that requires new development applications to include a carbon footprint statement showing that the project does not add greenhouse gas emissions and can mitigate other negative impacts such as air pollution from traffic.Developers don’t have to disclose environmental impacts of construction and ongoing operations. By requiring them to submit a carbon footprint statement up front, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution can be calculated. Once the emissions become known, the council could require the development to be carbon-neutral over a 20-year period as a condition of approval. If they can’t avoid emissions, developers would have to agree to buy carbon offsets. That revenue would be put into a fund for the city-operated Canary Tag program, which would help pay for environmentally friendly initiatives to offset pollution. That money also could help fund bus service.As an example, construction of a 150-room hotel would pay approximately $30,000 in “Canary Tags” without taking any energy-saving measures. For car trips generated, the developer could have to help offset air pollution by providing car-sharing programs, bike fleets, having electric vehicles on site and reducing parking spaces. After exhausting those efforts, the developer could pay into the transit system.What those costs are and how to calculate the impacts remain to be determined. With input from the development community and work by City Hall’s environmental staff, a carbon footprint statement is due within the next two months. “We don’t know what questions to ask to make them quantify what their impact will be,” Environmental Health Director Lee Cassin said of including developers in the process. The City Council ultimately will sign off on what it believes are reasonable mitigation measures, based on recommendations from City Hall’s environmental team.But since city officials are relatively new to the concept and are just embarking on implementing policies related to its Canary Action Plan – which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 – the City Council might hold off on assessing fees to developers until it has a firm grip on the review process.”Since we are on the cutting edge of this, we could benefit from six months or a year,” before developers are charged with carbon offsets, said Mayor Mick Ireland, adding that the council should start by reviewing only major projects and eventually develop a comprehensive plan that would include all building permits, affordable housing, as well as scrape and replace projects.”The public needs to be aware that when we do something it has an environmental impact,” Ireland said. City Councilman Steve Skadron wondered how the new review process would have impacted the Limelight Lodge under construction. Cassin responded by saying that city officials have no idea how energy-efficient the building is other than what the Department of Energy’s code dictates.”You would have the facts which you don’t have now,” she said.City Hall’s global warming project manager, Kimberly Peterson, said instituting the ordinance would create a market incentive for developers to be energy-efficient while at the same time holding the line on creating no new emissions.”There would be actually a way to hold them accountable,” she said, adding that developers shouldn’t be fearful of the new standards. “It’s not that hard to be carbon-neutral. “It doesn’t seem to be that onerous.”
The Aspen City Council directed staff to move forward with the Burlingame early childhood education center, but decided it needs more information on the affordable housing units that are part of the schematic design at a work session Monday.