Land-use changes back before City Council on Monday, Jan. 9

Jessica Garrow

Land-use changes in the air

Aspen City Council will meet Monday, Jan. 9, about potential changes to the Land-Use Code that would closer align it with the Aspen Area Community Plan, a document that outlines the community’s desires.

Some highlights of the proposed changes Land-Use Code include:

• Reduction of all commercial zone building heights to 28 feet, and associated reductions in allowed floor area.

• Remove ability to build new free-market residential units in commercial or mixed-use buildings.

• Reduce amount of affordable housing that can be built in commercial or mixed-use buildings.

• Potential adjustments in housing mitigation from 60 percent to 40 percent for second-tier commercial spaces and 80 percent for prime (ground floor) commercial spaces.

• Potential requirement for existing commercial spaces when they redevelop and did not originally provide affordable housing mitigation.

• Increased requirements for pedestrian amenity requirements for all commercial buildings (a minimum of 25 percent of the lot area must be pedestrian amenity).

• Increased ways to provide Pedestrian Amenity as well as minimum size requirements – on-site through interior courtyards, second floor deck spaces, at grade spaces, arcades, and subgrade courtyards; off-site; and cash-in-lieu.

• Combined off-street parking and mobility requirements, allowing a combination of parking and mobility improvements to be implemented to meet a development’s parking requirement.

• Increase in cash-in-lieu amount for parking spaces to $38,000 a space.

• Updated use lists to focus on desired commercial uses.

• Update of view plane requirements creating stricter and clearer criteria.

• Expansion of the Wagner View Plane

Aspen City Council on Monday, Jan. 9, will resume discussions concerning the adoption of code amendments with the freeze on commercial land-use applications set to expire in February.

The moratorium, passed in the form of emergency legislation, took effect immediately when City Council unanimously approved it March 16.

Just a week earlier, the city hired Jessica Garrow as its new head of Community Development. As director of the department, Garrow oversees the city’s building, historic preservation, and planning and zoning offices.

Garrow, 33, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado and a master’s in city and regional planning from Ohio State University.

She recently sat down with The Aspen Times to discuss her first 10 months on the job. Following are excerpts from that interview.

Aspen Times: What’s the best thing that will come out of this moratorium?

Garrow: On the wonky side, when we decreased the building heights in the commercial core district a few years ago, we didn’t decrease the floor-area and size of building. Fixing that … and on the policy side, the part I find interesting is the focus on the residential side of commercial space. One of the biggest changes right now is the success in limiting the free-market residential in all of the commercial zone districts, and I’m really excited about how the second-tier commercial space plays out. I think it’s a nuanced look at what planning can do and what the community wants to see.

AT: What’s the biggest downside of the moratorium?

Garrow: Individually the policy changes are really positive, but put together I have some concerns that they won’t get the results the council and community are looking for. That’s why these scenario analyses are so important.

AT: Tell us your thoughts on the citizen group’s effort to have the city regulate chains.

Garrow: I think that there are a number of important chains that call Aspen home. Our grocery stores and some of our retailers seem to be incredibly popular — Pure Barre, Ace Hardware. … I think Aspen does have it all in the commercial core, and that’s why we are focusing on the second-tier spaces. Those are the spaces the chains typically don’t want to go to, and that creates a vibrancy and vitality. I don’t think all chains are bad, but I share some of the concerns that we have reached a point where there are so many luxury chains. I’m not sure I have an answer to that, but it’s a really important issue.

AT: Before you were hired, some critics of the Community Development Department argued its next director should be an attorney with experience in land use and planning. Have you heard from them since you were hired?

Garrow: I haven’t honestly, but I rely a great deal on Jim True, the city attorney, to help me. And we have the consultant Mark White, a planner and land-use attorney. … You have to very thick skin to do this job, and I’ve always been drawn to public service. My mom has always worked in the government, I always knew what I was getting into, but I’m also very passionate. There are more good days than bad days in public service.


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