Hardly an emergency
I was disappointed once again to see members of the Aspen City Council, presumably on the advice of staff, playing fast and loose with the Home Rule Charter by proposing an emergency ordinance for a change in the land-use code.
Mayor Ireland’s City Council, under the sponsorship of Jack Johnson, utilized an emergency ordinance to pass Ordinance 30, an ill-considered historic-preservation ordinance that required the historical review of every property more than 30 years old during the first few weeks of Mayor Ireland’s administration in 2007. This ill-considered ordinance consumed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds, thousands of hours of community members’ time and dozens of hours of City Council meetings before being substantially revised three years later.
I thought the City Council learned from the experience. Then, as now, the charter purposely limited the use of emergency powers to genuine emergencies, where time does not permit the deliberations and public hearings needed for land use or other standard public-policy issues. The charter reads as follows:
“Section 4.11. Emergency ordinances. Emergency ordinances for the preservation of public property, health, peace, or safety shall be approved only by the unanimous vote of council members present or a vote of four (4) council members, whichever is less.”
Land-use issues are not emergencies (per Webster’s: “an unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action”) but rather stable, foreseeable issues. Effecting changes in generally applicable building heights or historical review does not meet the charter standard for “preservation of public property, health, peace, or safety.”
While I might not agree with some of the city’s policies and decisions, I expect the city to comply with the letter and spirit of the law. Time and again, that seems to be too high a standard.
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