P&Z wants more time on downtown rezoning | AspenTimes.com

P&Z wants more time on downtown rezoning

Janet UrquhartAspen Times Staff Writer

The possible rezoning of the commercial core is a priority, but not an action that should be rushed, the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission agreed Tuesday.Commission members refused to push through a quick recommendation to the City Council on new regulations to limit the types of businesses that occupy ground-level spaces in the commercial core.Instead, the P&Z agreed to take up commercial zoning first, on Sept. 17, but within the context of a broader package of land-use code amendments to foster what has been dubbed ?infill? development. Various aspects of the infill legislation will be before the commission for much of the next two months.?I don?t think there?s anybody here who doesn?t think we should deal first with the commercial core,? said Jasmine Tygre, P&Z chairwoman. But, she suggested any attempt to pass a recommendation on the complex issue last night was ?absolutely absurd.?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 a call for action, spearheaded by outspoken shop owner Barry Gordon.Office uses in the core detract from the retail experience for tourists, Gordon contends.?This is really a one-industry town. What we really sell is tourism,? he told the commission. ?Anything we do to detract from that area hurts us in our pocketbooks.?But some P&Z members weren?t convinced the types of tenants in Aspen?s shops have much to do with a struggling tourism economy.?I don?t think the problem we have right now with a downturn in tourism and subsequent drop in sales tax dollars can be attributed, even in part, to uses on the first floor,? said commission member Eric Cohen. ?It?s not so simple as saying office use or first-floor use is going to make the difference.?In fact, Cohen and member Roger Haneman noted visitors tend to stop and peruse the photos posted in real estate office windows, even if it?s only to gasp and laugh at local home prices.?Guys, you are so out of touch with reality, I really think you should resign your posts,? Gordon responded.Citizens at yesterday?s session offered a range of comments on the zoning issue: Let the market dictate the makeup of the commercial core; clamp down on shop size to discourage large chain stores; embrace ?small boutique real estate offices? that are part of Aspen?s charm, for example.Former retailer Ernie Fyrwald, who now works in real estate, suggested Aspen create new retail spaces in alleyways and in other underutilized spots around the core ? empty lots, the fire station site, and the Silver Circle Ice Rink, for example.?The ice rink, in my opinion, is a complete failure,? he said. ?Why is that still there??The infill code amendments are designed to foster new development and redevelopment in Aspen?s core, including the kinds of projects Fyrwald suggested.P&Z member Bert Myrin urged the commission to separate the downtown rezoning from the rest of the legislation and send a recommendation to the council after its next discussion.?Why don?t we see if that makes sense,? said member Ron Erickson. ?Let?s not make that decision now.?[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]