Ireland to run for a third term as county commissioner |

Ireland to run for a third term as county commissioner

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Nine-year incumbent Mick Ireland announced yesterday that he will seek a third term as a Pitkin County commissioner.

Ireland made his plans public last night at a meeting of the Pitkin County Democrats.

The District 2 Democrat said when he originally ran for office in 1994 he promised to protect the environment, restrain growth and build affordable housing, and he sees more work ahead in all three areas.

“We’ve made progress on all those things, but I think they are certainly related and there’s more to be done,” he said.

Ireland said the county and city of Aspen’s affordable housing program allows a maximum number of people to live where they work, which is good for the valley and the environment. He added that it’s good for the diversity of the community as a whole, and then said completion of the Burlingame affordable housing project is one of his priorities if re-elected.

“A community that has 20,000 jobs – and that number comes from the city’s own report on housing – has a responsibility to the rest of the planet and the valley to house a reasonable proportion of them. Not all of them, but a reasonable proportion,” he said.

The county has stepped back from a recent attempt to make wholesale revisions to the land-use code, but Ireland wants the opportunity to see things through once the discussion picks up again.

He said a well-written and progressive land-use code can protect the environment, the county’s financial health and property values, and he points to the Rural and Remote zoning as an example.

Ireland, along with then-Commissioner Bill Tuite, was one of the principal authors and proponents of rural and remote zoning, which sharply limited development in the backcountry.

Rural and remote gave lot owners the right to build a 1,000-square-foot cabin in the woods without electricity, paved roads or telephone wires, or an incentive not to develop at all in exchange for a transferable development right. TDRs currently sell for about $250,000 apiece. They are purchased by developers looking for a way around certain requirements in the approval process.

Ireland points out that little or no development in remote areas goes a long way toward protecting the environment, and saves county taxpayers a bundle because they don’t have to pay to extend fire, police and road maintenance services into the wilderness.

Ireland also wants another term to help the local economy become less reliant on residential construction.

Bill Kane, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s top planner, recently pointed out that second-home owners and their families flying into Aspen for holidays are making it harder for tourists to book flights at the same time. Ireland thinks there is a role for Pitkin County in finding a solution to that and other problems that come with ongoing transition to a seasonal second-home economy.

The second-home phenomena is also pushing out the economic amenities that draw tourists – nightclubs that aren’t private clubs or a few more bookstores instead of all those jewelry stores, for example.

“The next step is to create a sustainable tourism-based community,” Ireland said.

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