Mayor wants to address downtown construction | AspenTimes.com

Mayor wants to address downtown construction

Karl Herchenroeder
The Aspen Times

You don't need the statistics to know construction activity is up in Aspen this year. In the past six months, the jackhammers, cranes and construction crews have told the story in the downtown core.

Nonetheless, the numbers do help put it in perspective, and according to Community Development Director Chris Bendon, construction activity this year, in terms of total permit valuation, is outpacing 2013 by 60 to 70 percent. On Friday Mayor Steve Skadron said he doesn't think the volume of work will taper off any time soon.

"I'm frustrated really as a local, outside of being the mayor, about the livability of town during these construction booms," Skadron said, adding that it's reminiscent of the last construction surge between 2006 and 2008. "It's becoming apparent to me that we're not simply in a boom but a longtime redevelopment cycle, and it isn't as if one building is getting built and construction stops. We're going to have two or three or four or five years or a decade of constant building."

Skadron said that rather than have the same conversations over and over at the council table, the city is exploring new ways to deal with construction impacts, starting next week with two meetings open to public. The first is from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall and the second is 9:30 to 11 a.m. Wednesday in the same location.

"I was hoping to look for a solution to this," Skadron said. "And I'm asking to have an informal chat with the development community."

Officials from Aspen's Community Development and Engineering Departments are expected to attend the meeting with Skadron, as well. The mayor said that there have been solutions suggested in the past, such as "pacing," a word Skadron said he understands is offputting to the development community, "for obvious reasons."

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Instead of the city hammering developers on what the solution will be, Skadron said he's hoping it's possible to come up with a solution through informal conversation with the industry. He said that ideally, the city would be looking to take formal action before next summer, though there may be some solutions to apply this winter.

For the 2015 budget, Community Development is requesting the addition of a second senior planner and a permit coordinator, amounting to $179,490 in increased labor costs. Bendon said the reasoning behind the request is increased workload.

"It's getting busier and busier," Bendon said earlier this month. "In the Planning Department, just the sheer volume of cases: planner of the day requests, applications for the larger projects where we need a senior planner."

Engineering has requested the addition of a civil engineer as well as two seasonal construction mitigation officers for a total budget increase of $156,370. City Engineer Trish Aragon said that with increased construction activity in the downtown core and heightened concern from the community, the addition of more mitigation officers would help ensure that construction crews are in compliance.

herk@aspentimes.com