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Moratorium on development

John Colson

Nearly all proposed development projects ground to a halt Tuesday night when City Council imposed a six-month moratorium on new applications.Since the moratorium was an emergency ordinance, it became effective immediately. It affects most projects that have not received final City Council approval.The ordinance passed by a 4-1 vote, with Mayor Helen Klanderud dissenting.”I don’t believe there is an emergency,” Klanderud said just before the vote. “I believe there are perceptions of an emergency. I believe this emergency ordinance is not necessary at this time.”The vote came after an impassioned outpouring of opposition from a number of developers, real estate brokers, builders and property owners, some of whom indicated that they came to the 4 p.m. meeting at City Hall in response to an e-mail alert the Aspen Chamber Resort Association sent out.The council members, while saying they were sympathetic to some of the speakers’ concerns, concluded that City Hall needs a break from the ever-mounting pressure of development applications in order to review a number of critical codes.Exempt from the ordinance are any projects that have already received final City Council approval, even if the application still must go before one of the city’s minor commissions, and any projects designated as “essential public facilities.” A handful of other types of projects are also exempt.The most urgent issue, council members said, is the controversial set of “infill” regulations originally intended to boost development of affordable housing and “locally serving” businesses in the downtown area.A subsequent surge of development, residents have complained, has created a constant din of construction noise, contaminated homes with blowing dirt and dust, blocked streets with trucks and had other impacts. At the same time, many say the goals of increasing affordable housing and locally oriented businesses downtown are failing.A group called the “White Shirts,” for their “We (love) Aspen” T-shirts, formed in opposition to the pace of development, and a handful were in the audience Tuesday.Council members sided with them.”We are concerned about how many projects are going on in this town at one time,” Councilman Jack Johnson said, “about how much we can tolerate, as a people.”The city plans to begin work immediately on a review of the infill regulations, starting with a work session Tuesday with head planner Chris Bendon.Among the types of new developments the moratorium doesn’t affect will be single-family home developments, either as projects that tear down a structure and replace it with a new home, or new homes on vacant lots; duplex homes in residential neighborhoods; accessory, nonhabitable structures; and remodeling projects that do not increase the square footage of an existing building or buildings.Other than the exemptions, the ordinance covers essentially all other types of projects within the city.Specifically included in the moratorium are any lodge redevelopment projects that seek approvals under the city’s “Incentive Lodge Development” section of the land-use code, which has been linked with controversial redevelopment projects recently.Also in the ordinance is authorization for the Community Development Department to hire an outside consultant to take an unbiased look at the city’s complicated land-use codes with an eye toward trimming or modifying conflicting or ineffective sections.Councilman Torre, after thanking the crowd for attending the meeting, attempted to mollify some of the angry residents by emphasizing the compromises made to make the measure less strict than it might have been.”We have gone soft-moratorium, and I think it’s for the best,” he said.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com


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