P&Z to mull downtown rezoning | AspenTimes.com

P&Z to mull downtown rezoning

The hot-button topic of whether or not Aspen should prohibit office uses in its downtown street-level shop spaces will receive its first formal discussion this week.Beginning Tuesday, the city?s Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled to take up a series of land-use code amendments that would implement the vision outlined in the Infill Report, released early this year.The actual infill legislation is still in the final stages of being drafted. But the P&Z will receive an overview of what?s ahead and is expected to decide whether or not it should take up a proposed rezoning of the commercial core first, or consider that piece of the overall code changes in conjunction with a review that is expected to take a month or more.Some in the Aspen retail community have pressed the city to move forward quickly on the downtown rezoning. A recent proliferation of real estate/timeshare sales offices in prime retail spaces sparked the call for action.The P&Z could decide to separate that issue from the rest of the infill legislation and send a recommendation on that aspect to the City Council ahead of the rest of the infill package.The city?s planning staff believes there should be a prohibition, or at least a limit, on office uses on the ground floor of the commercial core, according to a staff memo to the P&Z.?A successful retail environment depends on a continuous pedestrian experience that engages the passerby. The existence of office use on the ground floor can disrupt this continuity and diminish the overall district,? the memo reads.The staff is not, however, in favor of pulling the zoning issue out of the package of infill amendments. It is part of an overall infill plan that should be taken as a whole, according to the memo.?The issue of ground floor uses is also worthy of more discussion in relation to the entire infill strategy,? according to the memo.It will, however, be up to the P&Z to decide whether or not to expedite its review of the matter.?City Council is anxious to receive a recommendation on this issue,? the memo notes.The city has several options if it decides to limit office uses in ground-floor spaces in the commercial core.?Allowing a certain number of office uses is the most sensitive approach to curtailing the proliferation of these uses,? according to the memo. ?The right to operate an office could actually be traded between businesses. This strategy would be new to Aspen, but has worked in other communities wanting to limit the proliferation of a certain type of use.?The city could also enact a prohibition on ground-floor offices that would ?grandfather? existing offices, allowing them to continue to operate, though they wouldn?t be allowed to expand. If an office closed, the new zoning would prohibit another office from opening in the space.Or, the city could prohibit ground-floor offices and set a time period ? five years, for example ? in which existing offices must vacate their street-level spaces, presumably for upper floors in commercial buildings, where they would still be permitted.The city may want to make a distinction between business and professional offices and service businesses, such as banks, and treat them differently, the memo notes.The P&Z meeting will begin at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council chambers at City Hall.The meeting will include a reintroduction of the Infill Report and the setting of a schedule to review the various components of the new legislation. The topic of commercial zone districts is slated for Sept. 17, according to the proposed hearing schedule.The Infill Report, produced by an advisory committee, proposes amendments to Aspen?s land-use regulations to encourage new development and redevelopment within Aspen?s urban center, with an eye toward revitalizing the core. The idea that Aspen should ?fill in? rather than encourage outward sprawl gave way to the term ?infill.?The report recommends zoning amendments in the commercial core, the commercial periphery, along Main Street and in the lodging zone, as well as changes to foster multifamily housing on the east side of town and additional residential density in the West End.The idea is to create new opportunities for higher-density, mixed-use development in the downtown core, redevelopment of commercial properties, rejuvenation of lodges and more in-town affordable housing, according to the report.[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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