Master plan vital for civic center
Dear Editor:The City Council of Aspen should not trade out the master plan process for the COWOP (Convenience and Welfare of the Public) process. Within the formal master planning process, the P&Z and the public are engaged in a multilevel process over a longer period of time. The public, under the master planning process (conducted under state law), receives published public notices of hearings on the proposed plan and can attend open meetings before the P&Z and City Council, and can provide diverse opinions and insights. The series of public hearings allows the public to learn from the process and to provide increasingly more informed input as the plan matures.COWOP is a city of Aspen process that was invented to fast track the integration of special interests on a specific site. The best example of this was Burlingames comprehensive development plan of site, infrastructure, housing mix and marketing program.While COWOP is consensus gathering, it tends to be structured by planning staff, with a facilitator, for projects deemed time critical. Discussion of minority opinions are often not considered, and public insightful opinions are often not allowed because they divert from the COWOP rules.A formal master plan process is the proper tool for a project as big and permanent as the redevelopment of Aspens civic center (ZG plan). This should be completely open to the public every step of the way. Master planning will more likely deal with former legal decisions of record, tax-funding sources for the underlying land swapping and any former voter approvals which may or may not require a future vote.A master plan process for the civic center redevelopment should require compatibility with the context of its neighborhood. Eventual institutional buildings, the city hall, the library and the former youth center will join neighboring existing buildings. The visual nature of the courthouse has already been partly obscured by an inappropriate massive new development across the street.The role of the whole combined complex should express and complement a human-scale streetscape. These are contextual amenities and community values, and they are important public interests that might be overlooked in a COWOP process. They may not necessarily be felt as high-consensus values by those attempting to maximize the site for library, jail, ACRA, museum, and city and county bureaucratic interests. By definition, this COWOP structure will not be amenable to questions as to whether some of these functions should be eliminated, reduced, relocated or minimized, given the available topography. All these, and many more typical master planning issues, should be the subject of a formal critical analysis and comment period by both P&Z and the public at-large. Public participants should have the ability to participate in the learning curve that results in a process that proceeds through the multiple formal public hearings. For a development this size, the public deserves better. Such a plan should be fully vetted at every step of the way through a traditional master plan process. Junee KirkAspen
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