Pitkin County commissioners get next crack at special-events regulations | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County commissioners get next crack at special-events regulations

Rick Carroll
The Aspen Times

Pitkin County commissioners soon will be tasked with hammering out a new set of regulations for special events after the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a motion amending the land-use code last week.

Commissioners get their first look at the amendments at their work session Tuesday. The matter possibly could get a first reading Wednesday, said County Planner Mike Kraemer. The Planning and Zoning vote was advisory only.

The sentiment of planning and zoning commissioners, over the course of two rounds of discussions Jan. 6 and Tuesday, was mixed. Private-property rights were at odds with having a respectful neighborhood, but the board ultimately voted 5-1 in favor of amending the county’s land-use code for special events. Trent Palmer cast the dissenting vote for a motion that said, “The Planning and Zoning Commission finds the material and amendments ‘challenging.’”

Planning and Zoning approval was the latest development in the county government’s reaction to a June 14 wedding ceremony and reception held on the backside of Aspen Mountain. The gala was staged in the county’s rural and remote zone district, land that’s considered pristine and sensitive and typically abuts federal property and is above 9,300 feet. A temporary chapel was erected along with a 27,000-square-foot tent for the reception and other structures to accommodate the wedding.

The event exposed a loophole in the land-use code and prompted county commissioners to pass a moratorium on “any and all permits that allow for structures, temporary, permanent or of any kind that would violate the use and dimension restrictions of the rural and remote zone district.”

The moratorium expires in March, and county commissioners aim to create special-events regulations for not only the rural and remote district but the rural district and urban growth boundary, as well. The restrictions differ for the three zones, the lightest for the urban growth boundary and the strictest for rural and remote.

But the scope of the complex set of regulations — which covers the size of temporary structures, music, event duration and other potential impacts to the environment and neighborhood quality of life — gave some Planning and Zoning members pause. Members of caucuses also have shown push-back for regulation they feel borders on government intrusion into their lives, chiefly because they theoretically could be required to get a special-use permit for a party that might have live music, a temporary structure and more than 100 guests.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Monty Thompson, however, said some type of restrictions should be in place.

“I like the fact that there are guidelines with some sort of ability to work with the (county) staff,” he said.

John Miller, who owns the Little Annie Basin property where the June wedding was held, said the county “lost its mind” when it indicated plans for the new regulations.

“I think this is overregulating,” he said. “I don’t see any rights for the property owners.”

Palmer also said the county is overreacting, but he supported tightened restrictions on the rural and remote district.

“I think we’re here because of an isolated incident,” he said. “(This is about) rural and remote, and all of a sudden we have three tables (of regulations) touching everybody.”

Planning and Zoning members tweaked the Community Development Department’s recommended thresholds for the three zoning districts, and their motion also expresses “reservations regarding the urban and rural area amendments,” along with “reservations regarding private events on private property.”

“This discussion needs to happen at the (Board of County Commissioners) level in regards to what the numbers and thresholds are,” said Planning and Zoning Chairwoman Mirte Mallory.


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“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.

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