Pitco electeds focused on rural character, slowing residential buildout
Pitkin County commissioners offer thoughts on citizen group’s work to limit impacts of growth and development
Pitkin County elected officials on Tuesday expressed general support for the work done thus far by a citizen board that is looking at ways to limit the impacts of growth and development, including reducing home sizes and how many dwellings can be located on one lot.
Potential changes to zoning and what the buildout potential is throughout the county is the focus of next week’s meeting of the Community Growth Advisory Committee, which is a 26- member group that convened earlier this year to recommend to county commissioners ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of development.
That could be done through changes to the land use code, various growth management systems and by tackling larger issues outside of those areas, like re-examing the county’s policies on affordable housing and short-term rentals.
“As we talked through what we want more of and less of that those became answers or areas that we could be manipulating dials to get more of, less of,” Michael Miracle, co-chair of the committee, told commissioners during their work session on Tuesday. “It’s not that it needs to be viewed specifically through land-use code decisions, it’s that the group kind of at times feels like it’s being asked to solve for a multitude of problems that can be solved other ways, including ways that you’ve kind of taken a couple of runs at as commissioners.”
Perhaps the most significant change the group is considering is reducing home size limits, which would be a change to the current rule of 15,000 square feet in most of the county.
Based on existing zoning, 1,304 homes could still be built in rural areas of the county and nearly 360 within the urban growth boundary, according to staff.
Commissioner Greg Poschman said he hopes the committee dives into the issue of resource availability and carrying capacity as it relates to buildout and zoning changes.
“What will it take to get to buildout with water use or electrification or grid availability, transportation and all of those things?” he asked. “What are the assumptions we have regarding resources, are they unlimited, or do we actually see a limitation?”
Other commissioners focused on what preserving rural character looks like in the future, including Kelly McNicholas Kury who referenced Tuesday’s press coverage of potential buildout and the committee’s work.
“I’m sure there’s people who are pretty alarmed by the headline on the topic this morning about buildout and I just wonder if the committee is thinking about when does rural not look like rural anymore,” she said. “In terms of land use pattern, does adding 270 more units in the Crystal Valley convert it from being a rural place and I guess what are the tools that we can use to address that.”
Commissioner Steve Child, a rancher in Capitol Creek, said he has experienced the change of rural character in his valley.
“I want to redefine what a rural feel feels like,” he said. “Sixty years ago there was about 20 houses in the entirety of Snowmass and Capitol Creek and to me that defines rural.
“Everything was farm and ranch land with houses on it that people took care of the land,”” he continued. “Even now in the area that I live in, it feels like a bedroom community to Aspen.”
Child added that he likes where the committee is headed and, like his colleagues, appreciates the work the group is doing.
The committee has been asked to extend its work through the end of March and county staff will find the right time to engage with the community before the group will make recommendations to officials.
“That way the community feels like they are engaged rather than being told what’s already been decided,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.
Tenants at the city’s oldest deed-restricted housing complex, Centennial Apartments, faced rent hikes as high as 30% in January that sent city, county, and APCHA officials into closed-door meetings with the relatively new landlord, Birge & Held.