New city job: construction enforcement |

New city job: construction enforcement

Janet Urquhart

Aspen will hire a construction enforcement officer and enact tougher regulations to minimize the impacts of what it anticipates will be another year of heavy construction all over town.The City Council both endorsed the new enforcement position and gave general direction on drafting stricter rules to govern construction sites and practices during a work session Tuesday. A refined proposal will be back for the council’s consideration March 20.The enforcement officer, who will be part of the Community Development Department, will make sure contractors are adhering to the tougher standards and handle complaints regarding building sites. The city provided no cost estimate on funding the post Tuesday, but Community Development Director Chris Bendon said the city could consider imposing fees on construction to pay for the additional staffer.Council members, weighing in on various strategies to lessen construction impacts, generally favored the more stringent options that Bendon proffered, as opposed to the most modest measures. Stiffening rules on erosion, mud and dust control; requiring contractors to provide contact information to the public; limiting parked vehicles spilling off building sites; enforcing emissions standards for construction equipment; and perhaps some tweaking of the hours during which the city allows construction are all likely to be part of the proposal Bendon brings back to the council.Forcing contractors to coordinate the staging of construction when multiple projects impact one small area also got the nod from council members, though Bendon conceded such a requirement will be complicated.”This is major migraine stuff,” he said.But it is the prospect of several projects all slated for one Monarch Street-area neighborhood, where three lodge projects could wind up under construction at once, that triggered some of the council’s concerns.Cooper Avenue resident Melissa Shennan anticipates “sheer, utter hell” when reconstruction of the Limelight Lodge begins near her home this spring. Two other nearby projects, the Dancing Bear Lodge and ChartHouse Lodge, could also commence while the Limelight is rebuilt.”I really hope you will pay some heed to the residents of this area,” she told the council, praising the plan for an enforcement officer. “Somebody has to be taking care of business from all sides. I can’t tell you how much I’m dreading this.”James March, calling himself a disgruntled resident living near the ongoing Innsbruck reconstruction, urged the council to adopt a prohibition on construction work on Saturdays and holidays, and to crack down on noisy equipment that runs all day at building sites – generators, for example.”This is like having a lawnmower running outside my window for 10 hours a day,” he said. “If anything came out of this process that would please me, it would be that there be no work on Saturdays,” he said.Council members, though, weren’t sure they should opt for tranquil weekends over expediting projects by allowing work six days a week. Currently, construction outside isn’t permitted on Sundays. Councilwoman Rachel Richards suggested a compromise on Saturdays – a later start time, of 8 a.m. instead of 7 a.m., for example.Construction site parking and fugitive mud and dust are two areas with plenty of room for improvement, Bendon added.”There’s a lot we could do here,” he said, regarding mud and dust. “It’s one of those things that generates a lot of animosity, if you will.”Mayor Helen Klanderud advocated requiring contractors on large projects to shuttle some of their workers to and from project sites – something that has been done in the past.Among the representatives of the construction industry attending Tuesday’s meeting, some of them urged the city to enforce the rules it already has as a first step.”There are already a lot of regulations in the books that I think are already pretty good,” said Jack Donovan, director of design and construction at the Obermeyer Place project. “I don’t think you necessarily have to go to the reinvention of that wheel.””There are serious, serious improvements that we can do tomorrow,” said David Guthrie, suggesting the city let the contractors step up before it enacts additional regulations.It shouldn’t take a complaint to make the city enforce existing state emissions standards for heavy trucks, Guthrie said.”I don’t know why the city and county, honestly, can’t start with their own vehicles,” he added.Richards suggested the missing piece in the proposed strategies to mitigate construction impacts is a clampdown on the rate at which new projects are springing up, apparently in response to a retooling of Aspen’s land-use code.While the city limits new growth through construction to 2 percent annually (1 percent for free-market homes), much of the construction is redevelopment, which doesn’t count as growth. And, some projects, though they are approved years apart, wind up being built at the same time, Richards noted.”There is just a tremendous amount of growth going on at one time,” she said.

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