Pitkin County ready for sequel on filming regs
December 13, 2009
ASPEN – Take 2 of Pitkin County’s discussion about becoming more friendly to film and commercial shoots will roll on Tuesday.
County commissioners are scheduled to discuss concerns brought to their attention two months ago by representatives of the film industry, and consider options to lighten up on the regulations that the co-owner of a local production company predicted would drive the lucrative film business elsewhere.
In October, Liz Long of Aspen Productions and Kevin Shand, Colorado film commissioner, both urged the county to be more accommodating to film productions – from lowering its permit fees and reducing the long lead times required for permits to lifting its prohibition on the use of helicopters in filming. There was no time for commissioners to delve into the issues then, so they scheduled a Dec. 15 follow-up discussion.
Lance Clarke, assistant community development director, has offered some ideas for commissioners to consider, including a more lenient application deadline for film and photo shoots and a new application form for film activities. Currently, such shoots use a multi-purpose special events/temporary commercial use permit.
A different form could be developed that is more specifically directed at the concerns associated with filming activity, Clarke said in a memo to commissioners.
Clarke offered no recommendation to cut the fees the county charges to process film-shoot applications, though. The current rate is $499 for a permit review that requires two hours of staff time and $1,497 for a review that requires six hours of staff time. Commercial filming applications routinely require more than six hours, in which case, an additional $249 per hour is charged.
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County land-use fees are set to cover the costs local government incurs, Clarke explained.
Clarke said the county could make a distinction between populated and remote areas, with different policies for each, if commissioners want to consider allowing shoots involving helicopters. Such requests have been routinely denied because of the noise, disruption and potential danger involved, he explained.
Many productions want aerial shots, and turn elsewhere to get them, Long told commissioners in October.
Finally, Clarke said, the county could consider “abdicating” its permitting for film activity that occurs in the national forest. Currently, production companies must obtain permits from both the county and the U.S. Forest Service.
Shoots are rarely confined solely to the national forest, though, and the county sheriff needs to be involved on some level in case an emergency or rescue situation arises, Clarke said.
Tuesday’s discussion is scheduled at 2 p.m. in the commissioner meeting room in the Courthouse Plaza building.