Moderation key theme in Aspen Area Community Plan |

Moderation key theme in Aspen Area Community Plan

Aaron HedgeThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/Aspen Times fileA participant uses a clicker to offer input to the Aspen Area Community Plan this week.

ASPEN – Three days of public feedback for the Aspen Area Community Plan seem to reflect a moderate view among Aspenites when it pertains to the city regulating development. Questions posed in clicker sessions Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday stemmed from the mid-2000s construction boom, and showed that many in the community are concerned about a boom-and-bust mentality that could significantly alter Aspen’s character.The questions dealt with a number of aspects of local development, from how much residents approve or disapprove of the affordable housing program to what extent local government should pace construction.The first of the 19 questions, which were posed to the participants on the large screen in the Wheeler Opera House, asked which types of development were most favorable. Among the choices were affordable housing and free-market housing, along with a choice to “let the market decide.” The largest portion of the people selected the latter, according to city-generated data from the session.Next, the session asked which of those types of development should be discouraged.Of the 160 or so participants, 29 percent said they felt affordable housing, one of Aspen’s prize programs, should be discouraged. The next largest group, 27 percent, wanted to discourage “larger lodging units.”For the last question in the survey, which asked how much employers should be required to establish affordable housing for their employees, about 50 percent said the policy should be flexible. Eighteen percent said the current policy, which requires employers to provide affordable housing for 60 percent of their employees, should be lowered; 16 percent said employers should be required to provide affordable housing for all of their employees; about 14 percent said the current policy is adequate; and 2 percent said they didn’t know.An overwhelming majority – 80 percent – of participants said they want new downtown buildings to “evolve past” the Victorian-era style of houses on Main Street. City planner Jessica Garrow said the questions focused largely on the aspects of the plan that proved to be the most controversial during an earlier series of meetings the city held last month; during those discussions about 100 residents expressed a desire to free up the development market.Though the questions asked basic demographic questions of the participants, the AACP clicker sessions did not yield scientific polling data because the people who decided to attend were a self-elected group, said special projects manager Ben Gagnon.The largest portion of the participants – about 35 percent – were between the ages of 55 and 65. About 70 percent said they live full time within the city limits.Garrow said not all the participants answered all the questions.The new AACP, depending on feedback sessions to be held in mid-January, could take a more solid role than it has in the past, becoming more of a regulatory document, instead of a philosophical guideline, for the future of building in the community.Responding to another question posed in the clicker sessions, the participants seemed split on how much land-use decisions should be dictated by the discretion of planning and zoning commissions.Almost 50 percent said development should be dictated on a case-by-case basis, while almost 48 percent said it should be dictated by strict, written guidelines. The rest said they didn’t know enough about the issue to weigh in.Discussions between the city, the county and the P&Zs will dictate the final plan. Those sessions are tentatively scheduled for early next year, and will be highlighted by the normal public hearing process most policy discussions are required to have. The P&Zs have been working on the current draft of the plan for the past two years or so.The original AACP was created in 1993 and was revised in