Mayor critical of moratorium
Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud has taken some heat over her objection to the city’s building moratorium, but she remains firm that the city’s development woes do not merit the ban.Klanderud has criticized components of a number of projects that have come before council, but if developers meet the letter of the city’s land-use codes, she feels compelled to approve them. “It’s not a question of whether I’m pleased or not. It’s our job to evaluate a proposed project against the code,” she said.Like the rest of council, she would like projects that offer more – or better – affordable housing on site, more affordable commercial space or more midrange lodge beds, and she’s not opposed to taking a closer look at how tweaking the codes could achieve that. She also agrees that council needs to address the number of simultaneous construction projects.”I am concerned about it, but I think we could deal with it without having a moratorium,” she said. “Where things are not working, I’m more than willing to change them. … I think there are some areas that need changing.”Klanderud was a part of the lengthy process that resulted in Aspen’s current infill codes, which have recently earned a bad reputation for failing to achieve the city’s goals for desirable development. But the nonresidential construction in progress won approval before the infill codes took effect, so Klanderud has reservations about what result will come from revisiting the codes.
“We need to get back to a place where people don’t expect us to change codes every other day,” she said. “You need to have reliance that things are going to be stable for a while so that you can continue forward – and that’s both sides.”The discussions that resulted in the infill codes had the same goal as the current discussions, and if that process didn’t yield the intended results, Klanderud cautioned, there’s no guarantee that “what we get out of the moratorium will be any more to our liking than what we have now.””If you’re going to change something, you ought to understand how you got what you got to begin with,” she said of the infill codes. “There needs to be a thorough discussion to that – not just a knee-jerk reaction to what is perceived is not working.”The moratorium is supposed to allow time for exactly that, but Klanderud thinks it could contribute to ill will that fractures the community.”My concern now with all this divisiveness is that … we’re going to take some major steps backward,” she said.As council sends more and more projects back to the drawing table, some developers have appeared frustrated over the lack of clear guidelines for designing projects that could actually earn council’s approval.
In the past, “applicants could come in and trust that decisions were going to be made based on [black-and-white] code,” Klanderud said. “Applicants are starting to bring their lawyers to council meetings – not at the end, but at the beginning.”In Klanderud’s eyes, the fallout from the strained relationship between council and developers “permeates the whole community.””Quite frankly, I feel the community as a whole is [harmed] because of the divisiveness and lack of trust,” she said. “It breaks my heart to see the community at loggerheads with itself.”When it comes to the pace of construction, Klanderud suspects the moratorium might actually result in more, not less, construction going on all at once.”My concern is [that] applications in the pipeline before the moratorium are not going to get building permits,” she said. “They’re all going to come online for building permits at the same time.”The moratorium applies to building applications and permits, excluding residential applications. Proposals already submitted before the ban can still come before council for approval, although applicants will have to wait until the moratorium is lifted to apply for the building permit.
Shortly before the moratorium, a group known as the White Shirts, led by local Les Holst, demonstrated their concern over the kind applications the city was approving and how those projects will change Aspen.Klanderud is a longtime local like many in the group, and she said she doesn’t want to see sweeping changes, either.”There are fantastic memories here, and there are certain things I mourn the loss of,” she said. “But it’s like he [Holst] wants it frozen in time.”Klanderud is hoping to find a balance that will help the city grow at an acceptable pace, but she said it’s impossible to stop change, and she balks at the idea that she is pro-development simply because she has approved projects that conform to the city’s own codes. Rather, she would like to see the city take a balanced approach to steering change while working within the boundaries it sets for itself.”Life goes on, and things will change. What we have to do is make sure it will change in the best possible way, and we don’t always know” what that is, she said. “If you don’t grow, you die. If you grow too fast, you die. … And that position’s a long way from being pro-development.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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