Pitco isn’t budging, yet | AspenTimes.com

Pitco isn’t budging, yet

Allyn Harvey

Relentless pressure from the development community has given at least one Pitkin County commissioner second thoughts about the recently adopted development moratorium, perhaps narrowing the majority on the board in favor of the moratorium to just one vote.

But even if Commissioner Patti Clapper’s ready to change her vote, three fellow commissioners appeared unmoved last night at a forum hosted by Leadership Aspen at the Given Institute.

The setting was more comfortable and the discussion organized a little differently, but the message from developers at last night’s meeting with the commissioners was the same as it has been since a development moratorium was adopted three weeks ago: End it now.

Like three other public meetings on the topic, the discussion was dominated by heavy hitters in the construction and legal communities.

Leadership Aspen director John Sarpa, himself a developer, moderated the meeting, and he managed to avoid a repeat of the other meetings, which were filled mostly with angry testimony and ended before the county could outline all of its reasons for adopting the moratorium and its plans for dealing with them.

Even so, the meeting was dominated by a few names in the development community – especially Steve Hanson, Jack Wilkie, Gideon Kaufman and Paul Taddune – and there was little real movement on either side.

However, Clapper said at the beginning of the meeting that she had misgivings with the moratorium, but did not elaborate further. “My fear right now is we are losing more than we could gain because of the moratorium,” she said.

Clapper was among the four commissioners who voted on Jan. 10 to adopt the building freeze, which halts new applications for homes of more than 3,500 square feet, subdivisions and planned unit developments like Highlands Village. Commissioner Shellie Roy Harper abstained that night and has since voiced her opposition.

Even if little actually occurred at the meeting, which was continued until Wednesday afternoon, it appeared a few in the development community were willing to admit the moratorium made some sense. And Commissioner Leslie Lamont was at least willing to discuss terms for lifting the moratorium.

Developer John McBride, who has lived in the valley since the mid-1960s, pointed out that many of the commissioners’ stated goals, such as focusing development in urban areas and preserving agricultural lands, are already articulated in the Aspen Area Community Plan and the Agriculture Committee report. He also reminded the developers in the room that the moratorium only affects one segment of development in Pitkin County – large homes and large projects that have yet to begin the formal land-use process.

“I think with the moratorium there is an opportunity to achieve some of these goals short of rewriting the entire land-use code,” he said.

But most who spoke lambasted the commissioners and the information on which they based their decision. Jack Wilkie demanded the moratorium be lifted about four times as the meeting progressed. Others warned that the moratorium would force layoffs in just a few weeks, and it may have effects similar to the bust that followed the collapse of oil prices in the mid-1980s.

The meeting ended with Sarpa taking a list of ideas for working toward a compromise that both sides can agree with.

The commissioners and developers will work on those ideas when they meet Wednesday at a time and place to be announced. The commissioners will also be given a chance to lay out their concerns and a smaller group comprised of interested parties will be appointed to work on code changes, Sarpa said.

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