Do they ‘rule’ or do they ‘guide’?
Are Aspen’s planning documents “guides,” or can they serve as regulatory devices when the city government is considering development applications?That’s pretty much been the discussion lately with the Aspen City Council, as well as the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.Twice in the past three weeks, city attorney John Worcester has been asked to provide clarification on whether the purpose statements of Aspen’s myriad guiding documents – such as the Aspen Area Community Plan, the Employee Housing Guidelines and the Historic Preservation Design Guidelines – can be used during the development application process.The first time came during the Hallam Lake swimming pool discussion that will be up for discussion tonight for a second time at the P&Z level.Then, the City Council asked Worcester to weigh in on the subject during a public hearing centering on a development application that was continued last week.While Worcester has not yet made public P&Z’s request on whether it can use the purpose language of the Environmentally Sensitive Area component of the city’s Land Use Code as it debates the Hallam Lake controversy, he did make a specific recommendation to the council last week. Then, he told the council that it could integrate the purpose language of the AACP into its land-use deliberations.But, Worcester told the council, references to purposes statements had better be very specific.The nebulosity of the debate became somewhat clearer Monday when the City Council voted unanimously to amend the language of the Land Use Code to clearly specify whether planning documents are “guiding,” or whether they exist in a “regulatory capacity.”Though Monday’s decision will not effect regulatory documents that already exist, it will indeed add a unambiguous stamp onto documents from now on.”This will not give any more weight to existing documents,” senior long-range planner Jennifer Felon told the council.Councilwoman Rachel Richards asked Worcester if this decision would give purpose statements any more weight.Though Worcester answered, “No,” community development director Chris Bendon told the council that by clearly labeling city documents as either “guiding” or “regulatory” in nature, it would it easier for planning entities to know whether they can integrate those guiding statements into the planning process.
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Development in Basalt barely skipped a beat in 2020 despite the coronavirus. It’s expected to be busier next year.