Infill dead – but not really
More than eight months after the Aspen City Council adopted Ordinance 5, Series of 2003, on first reading, members are ready to take final action Tuesday on the controversial package of zoning amendments known as “infill.”No one is expecting it to pass.”The idea is, it will either die for lack of a second or not pass,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.Infill as a sweeping package of zoning changes encompassed in a single 141-page ordinance may be about to die, but many of the ideas contained within it will not. In fact, three other ordinances before the council for a first reading Tuesday are components of Ordinance 5.After spending the better part of this year reviewing infill, including a series of lengthy public debates, the council has decided the complex proposal would be better tackled piece by piece.”It was our determination that it was just too big,” Klanderud said.City Attorney John Worcester suggested the council take some formal action on Ordinance 5 so city records are clear as to its fate. The public hearing on infill has been continued repeatedly since the council opened the hearing with its first reading of the ordinance back in January.The legislation was dubbed infill because it focuses development inward – filling in the town, rather than outward sprawl. As originally proposed, it aimed to foster higher-density, mixed-use development in the downtown core, redevelopment of commercial properties, rejuvenation of lodges and more in-town affordable housing.It also prohibited duplexes and single-family homes in places the city has zoned for other purposes, like offices and lodges; allowed taller buildings in most of the city’s zone districts; and eliminated most of the protected views in the city’s current land-use code.The prospect of taller buildings and lost views alarmed a vocal group of opponents of the legislation. There were hints that citizens opposed to infill would attempt to force its repeal through a referendum if the council adopted it.Proponents contend the new regulations would replace an overly restrictive code that stymies beneficial new development and has resulted in some tired buildings that should be replaced.A divided council, with two members who joined the review of infill midstream, has had no luck reaching consensus on the legislation’s more controversial elements.”I’ve always conceptually supported infill. It makes a lot of sense in the abstract,” Klanderud said. “When you get down to the pieces you need to implement to make it happen, it takes on a different dimension.”While the council is still committed to taking up the various components of infill, Planning and Zoning Commission member Eric Cohen shook his head Thursday over the dismantling of Ordinance 5.”I think it’s a shame,” he said. “I think, ultimately, it’ll be a very diluted product and will be marginally effective in getting the kind of development that was the whole goal of the program.”Cohen was the co-chairman of the Infill Advisory Group, a citizen task force that spent 18 months studying the existing zoning code and shaping the infill proposals. As a P&Z member, he spent 14 weeks last year helping turn the infill group’s ideas into the legislation that became Ordinance 5.The pieces of infill that have already been drafted as new ordinances for the council’s consideration Tuesday include code amendments dealing with the replacement of multifamily housing; the development of carriage houses that can provide deed-restricted housing separate from a main residence; and establishing transferable development rights that allow owners of historic homes and duplexes to sell unbuilt floor area to other property owners who can boost the allowed floor area on their home or duplex.The council is scheduled to begin work on what changes it would like to make in the lodge zone on Nov. 11.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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