Pitkin County commissioners mull vision for Buttermilk
ASPEN – The future of the Highway 82 corridor on the outskirts of Aspen – the subject of a chapter within the proposed 2010 update to the Aspen Area Community Plan – largely boiled down to a discussion Monday about what is appropriate at the base of Buttermilk Ski Area.Pitkin County commissioners convened for an overview of the draft AACP, their first discussion of a plan that provides a guide for future development within the urban growth boundary. The boundary encompasses the city of Aspen and its greater urban area, extending into unincorporated Pitkin County.The West of Castle Creek Corridor, a new section in the updated community plan, addresses the highway corridor between the Castle Creek Bridge and the end of the airport runway, including the base of Buttermilk.The plan for the area calls for distinct nodes of activity, physically separated by open spaces, to maintain a transition zone between rural areas and the city of Aspen and to prevent it from becoming an “urbanized, tunnel-like corridor, with repetitive development and the feeling of ‘sameness’ that define the worst kind of urban sprawl.”One of those nodes is the base of Buttermilk, where significant upzoning from the inappropriate residential zoning that currently exists there is envisioned, commissioners were told.The base of Buttermilk, including the Inn at Aspen, would remain a place for lodging and ski area development, according to the community plan, but commissioners differed on what that might look like.”I don’t want to upzone that dramatically because, in a sense, we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot as a community,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield, arguing against another base area trying to compete with Aspen and Snowmass. “It’s not like a major ski area … I don’t look at it as a major hub. I think we should be very careful about upzoning there.”What exists at Buttermilk currently is “sort of pathetic,” countered Commissioner Michael Owsley, noting the ski area is home to the Winter X Games.”It’s the face and the presentation of Aspen. You get a crowd of 40,000 people there,” Owsley said. “It’s probably the most intensely used ski area we have, for a very short period of time.”Buttermilk currently boasts a small collection of ski-related buildings and a restaurant, Bumps, plus the Inn at Aspen, a low-slung condominium hotel with a number of owners. Tall hotel buildings and worker housing are absent from the mix.Owsley questioned the Aspen Skiing Co.’s vision for the spot. “What are their goals there? What are our goals?” he said.”I don’t want it to look like Base Village. I don’t want it to look like Highlands,” Owsley added.The county has long anticipated a Buttermilk Master Plan from the Skico, but it has yet to be submitted.”My point is … we have to be careful about what we’re doing,” Hatfield said.”It’s a very important asset to our community,” said Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper. “I think that there is some upzoning that’s appropriate there.””Appropriate needs to be defined,” Hatfield responded.Across the highway, some commissioners agreed that a 10-acre undeveloped parcel owned by the county should be included within the urban growth boundary. It is currently outside the boundary, limiting its potential for development without an amendment to the community plan.The plan would redraw the growth boundary around the downvalley end of the airport runway rather than bisecting the airstrip – an apparent error in the 2000 AACP. Commissioners had no objection to that adjustment, but whether the county property and the city’s adjacent snow dump on the opposite side of the highway should be included within the boundary was a topic of debate. The urban growth boundary currently bisects the snow dump property; planning commission members recommended drawing the boundary to exclude the site entirely, but some commissioners said the dump site should be within the boundary.Both Owsley and Commissioner Rachel Richards objected to urban snow being dumped outside the growth boundary. Most commissioners also called for inclusion of the 10-acre county parcel within the boundary. It has been previously discussed as a place for county administrative offices of some sort, or housing. The site is adjacent to the Aspen Animal Shelter.”I don’t want to see housing out there, or county buildings,” said Hatfield, advocating drawing the urban growth boundary to exclude the parcel.The county won’t be able to afford additional parcels within the boundary and shouldn’t limit use of the site by leaving it outside of the growth boundary, Richards argued.”We’d essentially be rezoning it for one single-family house, or we’d be zoning it for nothing,” she said.Whether the county will ever be able to redevelop its buildings in town to create needed space is uncertain, Richards added. The property should be within the boundary, Kay-Clapper agreed.The urban growth boundary “has to end somewhere,” said Marcella Larsen, county Planning and Zoning Commission member, explaining why the P&Z suggested it remain outside of the boundary. “Right how, it’s not developed. That’s where we thought the line was appropriate.”Ultimately, the Aspen Area Community Plan is expected to be adopted by both county commissioners and the Aspen City Council. The commissioners’ next scheduled discussion of the plan is Nov. email@example.com
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