P&Z decries `watered-down’ version of controversial infill | AspenTimes.com

P&Z decries `watered-down’ version of controversial infill

Aspen’s proposed infill legislation should be adopted in its original form, not the “watered-down” version that has emerged after several public hearings before the City Council, according to several members of the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission.P&Z members, who spent 14 weeks delving into the reasoning behind each of the infill proposals, chided the council Monday for softening the legislation’s more controversial elements in the face of public pressure.”I feel they were somewhat arbitrary. They were politically driven,” said P&Z member Ruth Kruger, acknowledging the council was grappling with infill during an election season.Some of the changes the council has endorsed gut the effectiveness of the zoning proposals, argued the P&Z’s Roger Haneman.”I’d rather this thing went away,” Haneman said of the amended infill ordinance now before the council. The existing land-use code is better than the amended infill plan, he said.”It’s very easy to pare it back when people scream,” agreed Eric Cohen. “I don’t know that that’s a good idea.”I think some of those amendments were knee-jerk – were political decisions,” he said, urging the council to take a second look at the changes they’ve made.New Councilwoman Rachel Richards, too, said she wants the council to rethink some of the amendments. She called for reinstatement of the prohibitions on single-family home development in the lodge and office districts and for the ban on office uses on the ground floor in the commercial core.”It’s a sin to see the Aspen Drug Store have become a real estate timeshare office,” Richards said.The P&Z and council members were meeting to discuss what the city should do with infill – a proposed rewrite of the zoning code that, theoretically, should better define the city’s vision for future development. It was dubbed infill because it focuses greater density in the original town site, as opposed to sprawl.The proposals have polarized the community, with a number of vocal residents urging the council to scrap the initiative.Mayor Helen Klanderud, who voiced fears that infill has gone beyond what was intended, pressed the P&Z to explain why the overhauled zoning regulations are the best way for Aspen to get the kind of development and redevelopment it wants.Oft-stated criticisms of the existing land-use code – exactions deemed too onerous to made development feasible and an uncertainty with the approval process that makes it too risky – were reiterated.Aspen’s existing regulations, written three decades ago to curb runaway growth, are now strangling development altogether, said P&Z member Jack Johnson.As a result, Aspen is starting to stagnate, according to infill’s proponents.”The option of doing nothing does not keep the status quo,” Cohen said. “It just gets worse.””There is something really wrong with the system if you can’t get anybody to bring something forward to build something in the commercial core,” Kruger said.”Maybe,” Klanderud responded.P&Z members predicted the passage of infill will not result in wholesale changes to the town’s landscape. On many properties, redevelopment simply is not viable, they noted.”I don’t think infill is going to save or ruin downtown,” said Jasmine Tygre. “There are just too many other factors involved.”The council is scheduled to resume its public hearings on infill on July 14, but Klanderud said she would call for continuation of that hearing to a later date without taking public comment unless the council is able to hold another work session before then.She called on council members to each write a specific list of what is acceptable in the infill proposals and what is not, and come forward with suggestions on how to proceed. July 8 was pegged as a tentative date for that discussion.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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