Infill inconsistencies | AspenTimes.com

Infill inconsistencies

After reading the recent Bernie Graves article in the Aspen Daily News, I felt compelled to communicate with you regarding proposed zoning changes that are described in the Aspen Infill Report.

My comments are influenced as a result of my many (30-plus) years of experience in commercial real estate, most of which concentrated on properties in the commercial core of Aspen.

To be up front about my position, I want you to know that I support the concept of zoning changes to enhance improvements in the commercial core which, under current zoning, are not possible.

@ATD Sub heds:Fifty-five feet

@ATD body copy: I oppose a 55-foot height limit anywhere, for any reason. This increase in height and density would be ridiculously out of scale with existing properties and our community.

Visualize two more stories added on to Volk Plaza (Paradise Bakery), three more stories added onto either the Mount Plaza (Kemo Sabe) or Aspen Grove Building (Tratoria Toscana). Any plan to increase height and size of buildings – increased floor area ratio – should be pursued with utmost constraint.

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The height of existing, adjacent buildings should substantially influence (constrain) the height of any property under consideration.

Ice impact

Increased shading contributing to increased ice would be an undesirable condition that deserves serious consideration.

A solution might be to allow properties on the north side (facing south) to be one story higher (perhaps with setbacks) than those on the south side (facing north).

Preservation of mountain views, likewise, should be a consideration. Perhaps the above recommendation for icy conditions might satisfy this concern as well.

Parking

This component of the infill plan must be given serious consideration.

Given certain current council members’ desires to not consider light rail as a transportation component, and their desire to rely on auto for the community’s primary method of transportation, results in a need to increase parking opportunities in the commercial core.

Merely being flexible with parking won’t get the job done. To ignore the need for increased parking as a significant component of increased zoning will lead to disastrous consequences of the “infill plan.” Don’t be mistaken about this!

Urban sprawl

Increasing the density of the commercial core is not going to prevent urban sprawl outside the city limits. Only city and county zoning of land outside the existing commercial districts will accomplish that.

If there is land outside the commercial district of Aspen zoned for development, and if there is a developer with equity and a bank willing to finance it, sprawl will absolutely occur regardless of increased density in the commercial core.

Vitality

Terry Paulson is absolutely correct in being unconvinced that “greater density is the prescription for Aspen’s perceived loss of vitality.”

Aspen’s loss of vitality is the result of a major cultural shift in our community that has been ongoing for over two decades. Listen to Terry. He is right on when he declares “that’s the ‘more is better’ philosophy, instead of making what you have better.”

Purpose

I thought the primary purpose of the infill study was to encourage property owners to improve existing buildings that have become functionally obsolete and, in some cases, blighted by reducing the negative, financial impacts of the current laundry list of exactions (fees) and the cumbersome, costly and time-consuming approval process.

I am surprised to learn that a purpose of the infill study included promoting growth. I thought the purpose of the study was to improve what we already have, and if modestly increased density is required to catalyze or facilitate that purpose, then we should be willing to allow that to happen.

I do not support the purpose of the infill plan to be “to promote growth.”

Open space

The current zoning rules did not prevent open space from being useful. Poor planning, poor design, and inexperienced developers caused that to happen.

Volk Plaza (Paradise Bakery) and Mountain Plaza (Kemo Sabe) are examples of two developments at the same intersection (Galena and Cooper) that resulted in a successful open space (Volk Plaza) and a failed open space (Mountain Plaza).

Both are located in “A” locations; however, the commercial spaces at Volk Plaza are also “A” quality while the commercial spaces at Mountain Plaza are “B” and “C.” It is obvious that Mountain Plaza’s failure is the result of trying to get too much out of too little, and the result was “failure.”

The stairwell to the basement is the culprit … and the result is a below-grade commercial space that struggles, at the expense of open space that is not useable or beneficial.

To resolve this problem I would support increased density by enclosing the open space entirely; realize that this open space is redundant … it is contiguous to the Cooper Street Mall.

(I have no vested interest of any kind in this property.)

Donald J. Fleisher

Aspen

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