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Halt to development gains steam

Janet Urquhart

An emergency moratorium on virtually all development in Aspen advanced to a second reading and public hearing today after a City Council vote late Monday night pushed the measure forward.Councilman Jack Johnson introduced the six-month moratorium on new development applications in the lodging districts and commercial zones last night, calling for the city to take another look at land-use code amendments that have helped spur a flurry of redevelopment.The amendments, originally dubbed “infill” for encouraging the filling in of the town rather than outward sprawl, have resulted in a deleterious pace of construction and redevelopment that isn’t consistent with the town’s goals, Johnson said. He reviewed the code amendments as a former Planning and Zoning Commission member before being elected to the council.”I support the spirit and intent of infill,” Johnson said. “I worked hard on it, but what I’ve seen it do is not what I voted for.”An emergency ordinance requires a “supermajority” of four votes, which the moratorium eventually attained after the adoption of several amendments Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss pushed forth. Also included, at his insistence, is a moratorium on the issuance of building permits, and on the demolition and replacement of single-family homes along with commercial and lodge properties.Several council members warned DeVilbiss they will not go along with his additions when they take the ordinance up at second reading today, but they supported the amendments Monday to move the moratorium forward.”I can’t support a moratorium on building permits on already approved projects,” Councilwoman Rachel Richards said.”I really couldn’t support a no-build moratorium,” Councilman Torre said.But DeVilbiss hinted he would withhold his vote for the ordinance – needed to approve it on first reading – without the inclusion of a freeze on building permits and the scraping and replacing of houses. He acknowledged those amendments may not survive today’s second reading.If it wins approval tonight, it would go into effect immediately and expire Oct. 31 unless the council chooses to extend it.Mayor Helen Klanderud opposed the ordinance, urging the council to retool the city’s land-use code as needed without enacting a moratorium.”I can’t support what I consider to be too Draconian at this particular time,” she said. “I think we have some serious work to do, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it.”If the council is seeing projects it doesn’t like, it ought to reject them, Klanderud added. “If something is not getting us what we want, we ought to say ‘no’ to it.”The mayor also questioned Johnson’s decision to exempt essential public facilities from the moratorium.”I think if we should expect the rest of the community to do something, we should expect government to do it as well,” she said.That exemption, which would allow such projects as a new recycling center and redevelopment of the fire station to proceed, remains in the ordinance approved Monday. So is an exemption for the Smuggler Trailer Park, where residents are scraping and replacing their homes.The council meets at City Hall at 4 p.m. today to take up second reading of the ordinance at a public hearing.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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