No. 3: Aspen City Council
December 14, 2005
Perhaps no one has a greater impact on what happens, or doesn’t happen, in Aspen than the five members of the City Council. As a group, their decisions affect virtually every facet of local life.
In 2005, the council has been pegged as one of our Newsmakers of the Year because so much is happening on the development front. And one way or another, the redevelopment boom can be traced back to the council’s chambers.
In May, the city completed a council-approved overhaul of Aspen’s zoning regulations, in part to make redevelopment of lodges and other tired properties feasible. The old regulations had made change virtually impossible, the council and citizen task force concluded.
Developers have found the new code more to their liking, and most projects to come before the council so far have won approval. The council has yet to say “no” to a development proposal this year, though a proposed timeshare project at The Aspen Club and Spa seemed headed for defeat before the council delayed a decision, giving the club time to revise its proposal.”If the characterization is that the council has not seen a development it didn’t like, I don’t think that’s fair,” said Councilman Jack Johnson.
Johnson, elected to office in June, recused himself from the deliberations that recently led to conceptual approval of the Lodge at Aspen Mountain, a large new hotel proposed at the base of Aspen Mountain. He voted to approve redevelopment of the Limelight Lodge, but voiced reservations that he says could keep him from giving the project the final OK.”It’s not hard for me to turn down a project, not at all,” Johnson said.
Aspen is in transition, noted Mayor Helen Klanderud. An economy on the upswing, in combination with new zoning regulations, have spurred development and put the council in the spotlight because so much is coming forward at once.
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“Some people are reacting to everything going on at once. That concerns me as well,” she said.Recent approvals reflect both the community’s and the council’s belief that a particular development is right for Aspen – the rejuvenation of its lodging base, for example, added Councilman Torre. Even so, council votes are rarely unanimous and most proposals result in plenty of wrangling with the developer, he said.
“I think the ‘yes’ votes the council does give are because individual members see it as a positive for Aspen,” Torre said. “It is not a foregone conclusion that development is going to receive approval.”