Put the emergency brakes on runaway redevelopment
Recent headlines from The Aspen Times say it all:”Group wants arts center at fire station””‘Blue Vic’ proposal squeaks by””New city job: construction enforcement””La Co plan: three stories in view plane”If you haven’t noticed, this town is in a frenzied state of redevelopment – like no other in recent history. Some of it has to do with the infill regulations the city enacted to encourage development in the commercial core. Some also has to do with the makeup of the current City Council, which can’t seem to say no to anything.The community development department appears to have become an advocate for developers, rather than an unbiased judge of their applications. And City Council certainly seems willing to adopt whatever the planning staff recommends, whether it’s relaxing the affordable housing mitigation requirements, allowing an extra story or opening an alley in order to access just one house.Should we worry that the next code exemption will intrude on the relative solitude of the nature preserve at Hallam Lake? Or that a developer will be granted an exemption from view-plane regulations in order to build a three-story building where La Cocina restaurant used to be?An even more important question is this: Are we getting what we want from the city land-use code and the way it’s being administered?We think the answer is no. We aren’t getting the kind of measured development that the community has grown to expect since slow-growth policies were adopted in the early 1970s. There is nothing slow about the pace of development in Aspen right now.The City Council needs to reconsider the infill regulations enacted over the last few years. It needs to look at the community development department’s role in the application process and perhaps provide direction to its development-happy planners. And more important, the City Council needs to remind itself of the core values that have for so long protected our environment and our heritage. Aspen is a special place in large part because it has resisted the unbridled development that characterizes places like Vail and Frisco. It’s time to apply the brakes. That might mean a moratorium on new applications or some kind of slowdown of the approval process. Whatever it takes for the city to reconsider the direction it has taken, before it’s too late.
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Development in Basalt barely skipped a beat in 2020 despite the coronavirus. It’s expected to be busier next year.