Musical chairs at Aspen City Council meeting |

Musical chairs at Aspen City Council meeting

The current City Council worked through one of its last meetings together before the new council begins in April.
File Photo

The chambers were full and lively on the second-to-last meeting Tuesday evening for the current Aspen City Council. 

The current council was able to fully gather for the first time since the election and express their reactions before getting to the business of the evening, including potholes and distribution of funding and in-kind support for community organizations.

The symphony

Outgoing Councilwoman Rachael Richards said: “It was a tough race across the board, and it’s never easy to put everything you have into something and then see that it’s not as well received as you’d hope. But Council goes on and will see a new set of people having to deal with some very difficult issues with, whether it’s the Entrance to Aspen or whether it’s the capital reserve or repair needs of multiple buildings across the community.”

Mayor Torre praised Richards’ tenure: “She is still looking for solutions. I just want to give you credit because a lot of people will walk away from this table and say I’ve done enough and I’m done. But that’s not you and you know, you are here to engage and to continue working. I just want to say thank you to you.”

Councilman Skippy Mesirow, who was not reelected, said: “I just want to thank everyone, whoever you voted for, it doesn’t matter. Thank you for participating in our community in whatever way that is. I made a choice early on that I was going to run a campaign that was about moving the issues forward first and winning second.”

“I knew that that meant putting out ideas that would be controversial because they’re new. But I felt like it was my opportunity to do so for the community. And I got to do that. And I wouldn’t change a thing about the way we ran the campaign. I am so grateful, honored to have the support of people.”

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said, “I want to express my gratitude to the two members of this council that will be leaving, and a willingness to working with Sam and Bill. We have a lot of issues that the community faces, and it takes all of us to work together to try to find solutions. And we’ll do the best we can. And we will give it all our energies.”

“I am going to miss Skippy’s energy, his compassion, and his commitment, undying commitment to workforce housing. He’s been a great voice for the community in those regards, and has a vision for the future that maybe ahead of its time, he committed to getting that vision out. Above getting reelected. So I commend Skippy for his service, his energies, and the time commitment and ethics have for years.”

Onto business. Remove one chair. 

Hauenstein removed his presence and vote due to a conflict of interest with a resolution to issue funds and in-kind services to community organizations. The other four council members unanimously approved the resolution. 

In summary, 107 applications for support were submitted across all program areas — 90 for cash support and 17 for in-kind support. In addition, 15 health and human services organizations in the second year of a two-year grant were set to receive funding.

In total, 111 non-profits that provide services in the Roaring Fork Valley were recommended to receive cash or in-kind support through the city’s grant program. 

There are no new financial impacts associated with approval of this resolution, as all funding recommended for distribution has already been allocated in the 2023 budget by Council and recommendations have been tailored to meet set program budgets. 

The total amounts recommended for distribution by program area:

  • Health & Human Services: $365,750 
  • Community Non-Profit: $553,800 
  • Arts & Culture: $895,300 
  • In-Kind: $152,131 (Cash-value)
Starting May 1, new bag fees will be enforced at an additional 80 Aspen retail outlets. 
AP file

Waste reduction. Add back a chair.

The second reading of waste reduction ordinance was unanimously approved, including by Hauenstein. This will trigger big changes for retailers.

Starting May 1, new bag fees will be enforced at an additional 80 Aspen retail outlets. 

By Jan. 1, 2024, all plastic carryout bags will be banned, polystyrene food packaging will be banned, and paper carryout bags will require 100% recycled content. 

Take away two chairs. 

When the meeting passed the second hour and the audience dwindled to just family members and business associates of 570 Spruce St., Richards and Hauenstein dismissed themselves, as their residences were in too close of proximity of the issue brought to the council. 

In perhaps typical Aspen fashion, 50 square feet of property have been tied up in two years of paperwork and procedures. Long-time residents of 570 Spruce St. requested the following variances to their property:

  • (West) Side Yard Setback Variance:  7′ setback (10′ required) 
  • Combined Side Yard Setback Variance: 17′ setback (20′ required) 
  • Height Variance: 31′ 6″ height (25′ maximum allowed)

The three remaining City Council members all approved the variances. 

It’s been a hard winter for potholes in and around Aspen.
File photo/The Aspen Times

All aboard for kudos to street crews.

The past two council meetings revealed lots of concern and comments over potholes, snow removal and general Aspen street upkeep.

“City staff is on it. We know. Know if you are out there and you have a concern or something that you want to make the city aware of, the easiest way to do that is 311 Connect,” Torre said.

“They are three full-time employees short and they’re doing a great job with the staff they have,” Hauenstein sais. “They’re running 18-hour shifts. And I made an observation: When it’s not snowing, they’re trying to repair potholes.”

“We’ve been reaching out to CDOT about the conditions of Main Street Highway through the town continuingly and I want to sit down with them again about the current approach to their maintenance of that section of highway,” City Manager Sara Ott said. “It’s really not meeting community needs and creating public safety hazards from our perspective. We will continue to be diligent and trying to advance that conversation with CDOT.  I appreciate your acknowledgement of how hard that team is working right now, with the challenges Mother Nature is sending them.”