P&Z signs off on ‘infill’ rules
New regulations that proponents believe will help revitalize Aspen and opponents fear will horrifically alter the cityscape they love are ready for the spotlight.After 14 weeks of meetings to rewrite 38 chapters and sections of the city land-use code, the Planning and Zoning Commission gave its blessing Tuesday to Resolution No. 35 (Series of 2002), better known as “infill.”On a 5-1 vote, the P&Z passed the 135-page resolution on to the City Council. The proposed legislation contains amendments to almost every section of the code that guides development in Aspen.If the council approves the legislation, it will guide development in a much different direction than the existing code. It aims to foster higher-density, mixed-use development in the downtown core, redevelopment of commercial properties, rejuvenation of lodges and more in-town affordable housing.It would put an end to the proliferation of duplexes and single-family homes going up in places the city has zoned for other purposes, like offices and lodges.The regulations would also allow taller buildings, eliminate most of the existing, protected views from select spots around town and dismantle the Growth Management Quota System as Aspen has come to know it.”It’s a significant change to the land-use code,” said Julie Ann Woods, director of the city’s Community Development Department. “It is a very different approach in the city of Aspen.”The infill regulations will go the City Council for first reading on Jan. 27; but a Jan. 28 work session will give the council its first real opportunity to delve into the proposed code amendments.In the coming days, The Aspen Times will offer a series of articles detailing various aspects of the legislation.It was nearly a year ago that the Infill Advisory Group, a city-appointed task force, released its Infill Report. The group spent 18 months taking apart the land-use code to figure out why the regulations don’t produce the kind of development Aspen keeps saying it wants.Members studied the effect of every design regulation, exaction and zoning limitation Aspen has devised in the past 30 years to control development and recommended changes ? a lot of them. Resolution No. 35 makes those changes.The legislation is dubbed “infill” because it focuses development inward, filling in the town rather than sprawling outward at its edges. The code amendments address 14 of the top 25 action items ? “the to-do list” ? in the 2000 update of the Aspen Area Community Plan, noted Chris Bendon, the city’s long-range planner.The code changes don’t eliminate the city’s long-standing growth limit of 2 percent per year or do away with any of the key demands the city makes of growth ? like providing housing for 60 percent of the employees it generates, Woods stressed.But they do substantially alter the Growth Management Quota System, so onerous that no developer ever actually participates. Virtually every development in the city seeks out one of the many avenues of exemption to GMQS in order to avoid it.”What we were seeing was, there’s a whole lot of asking for things in Growth Management, but nothing ever goes through that, so we never actually get any of those things,” Bendon said.For the Planning and Zoning Commission, the elimination of certain protected views was among the most divisive issues. Relaxed height regulations was another.In the commercial core, where a 40-foot building is currently allowed, a 42-foot, three-story building or 45-foot, four-story structure would be allowed. A partial fifth floor, at 52 feet, would require special review and approval.”To me, the fact that you allow greater heights is fine in the downtown area,” said Chairwoman Jasmine Tygre. “Part of what makes the town charming, though, is that everything is not the same height.”Tygre said her objection to doing away with some view protections nearly resulted in a “no” vote from her. Member Bert Myrin did vote against the resolution.”What’s special about this town is you can see the mountain from all the streets,” Myrin said.The concept of increased downtown vitality and people living in the core is one Myrin said he supports. But, he said, the physical implications of infill ? blocked views, increased density and height, and the elimination of urban open space requirements (currently, one-quarter of a lot in the commercial core must be left unbuilt) forced him to oppose the legislation.Views and heights will be “the big issues” when the amendments go to the council for review and public hearings, as well, predicted P&Z member Eric Cohen, who co-chaired the Infill Advisory Group.”I’m ready to pass it on,” he said last night. “It has been well put together, and I’m sure it will be well taken apart at the next level.”To read the infill proposals online, log on at aspenpitkin.com and type “infill” in the search function.On Thursday: What is the Growth Management Quota System anyway and how do the proposed infill regulations change it?[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com]
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