Help shape our priorities
Dear Editor:The Aspen Citizens Group sponsored an education program on Dec. 20 to help owners of 25-plus-year-old properties learn of their options under the expiring Ordinance No. 30 and the new law, Ordinance No. 48. Access to an important option (a five-year certificate of no disturbance) expires on Jan. 8. The complexity of the two laws necessitated education, prompting ACG to sponsor this event with pro-bono expert resources Mitch Haas of Haas Land Planning and Mark Hamilton of Holland & Hart. The required documents are on the documents section of our website at http://www.AspenCitizensGroup.com.While the complexity of the issue prevented us from offering specific answers for all situations, we were pleased that Mayor Mick Ireland, Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss and city staff attended and shared their informal comments and perspectives. Mayor Ireland reconfirmed his commitment to a voluntary standard for historic designation and assured the public that this council will not force historic designation. He initiated a formal letter, made available to the public, to clarify this stance and restate the intent of the new Ordinance 48. The effective communication in this setting between city officials and the public was a good reminder of the need for more such dialogue on issues of community concern. The participants appreciated this unique and unexpected opportunity to hear from our city officials.Interested citizens shared their concerns about Ordinance 48 encouraging premature demolitions and more development as unintended consequences. Those anticipated problems seem unnecessary and easily remedied before we experience the action/reaction cycle. After the new year, we plan to request that council reconsider the no-cost remedies of: 1.) five- to 10-year demolition permit vesting to reduce the immediate pressure for demolition, and 2.) five-year no disturbance certificates for those on the list once they have closed negotiation discussions with the city and rejected historic designation incentives. These provisions would relieve the pressure to demolish and perform unwanted major renovations and, instead, allow the quiet enjoyment of the property which the owners are entitled to. As well, this would level the playing field of those properties on the list and those which are not.The last five months of confusion, tension, and anxiety driven by the ill-conceived Ordinance 30 legislation have resulted in some long term benefits: The community asked that the city adopt a voluntary standard for 20th century historic preservation and council responded by doing so in passing Ordinance 48. Council has committed to a better public process for future legislation, avoiding repeating the unnecessary use of emergency powers. The public has successfully created efficient, effective ways to collectively express its views to council. Public confidence has been enhanced by the ability to make a difference in the legislative process. Aspens future historic preservation policy will be determined by a citizen lead task force, to be formed in January. (Mayor Ireland and Councilman Dwayne Romero repeated their request Thursday that citizens get involved in this effort whether through membership on the task force, or attendance at meetings.)We encourage your active participation in communicating with council to shape Aspens priorities in the coming year. It can clearly make a difference.Marilyn MarksMike MapleAspen Citizens GroupAspen
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City of Aspen officials are trying to figure out what the downtown core looks like this winter as COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the state and in some parts of the country.