Some suggestions for City Council
December 5, 2007
From: Jerry Bovino, Aspen
Re: Ordinances 30 and 48
If I can borrow a line from Judy Collins, I’ve looked at Ordinance 30/48 “from both sides now.” “It’s the illusion of reason I recall, I really don’t know development at all.” With this caveat in mind, please allow me to offer a few observations.
First, Mayor Mick Ireland and councilmen J.E. DeVilbiss and Jack Johnson were largely elected because of their promise to limit development. It’s no surprise that they feel they have a mandate to do just that. What did you expect?
Second, although I thought the council made a mistake by rejecting the beautiful Lodge at Aspen Mountain, many of us were sympathetic to the council’s comments chastising the developers. Several council members were offended by the developers’ constantly changing arguments, which they thought were self-serving and lacked credibility.
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That’s why it’s terribly frustrating that our own City Council was equally self-serving when they felt a need to pass an emergency ordinance in the name of “historic preservation.” Give us a break! Mick, J.E. and Jack are all smart guys, but they embarrass themselves and insult the electorate when they pretend that the poorly constructed, dumpy ski shacks from the ’70s need preservation. They would earn a lot more understanding from Aspen’s voters if they eliminated the historic rhetoric and just said, “We were elected to limit development and that’s what we hope to do.” I could respect that.
Third, as Roger Marolt recently pointed out, it’s ironic that these emergency ordinances only serve to punish the longtime locals who lived modestly and didn’t develop their properties. Both the county commissioners and City Council have asked us to respect the town and the environment and to only build what we need. Then the down-zoning and historic ordinances show up. The net result is that the greedy developers who build monster homes get rich and the locals who behave responsibly get screwed. I am not sure why the council members don’t understand that the “law of unintended consequences” hasn’t been repealed. Why do you think so many of the new homes in Aspen are built to the max with every square foot of FAR (floor area ratio)?
Homeowners build more than they need because of fear of future limitations. After all, your house could down-zoned or “historic” tomorrow. Finally, in view of these misaligned incentives, I would like to suggest a simple, sensible way to limit development.
First, let’s restore some credibility by eliminating the 30-year pretend-historic silliness. Next, the City Council should pass a law which guarantees that there can be no down-zoning or additional limitations on residential properties for 10 years. Do you know what will happen?
Many of the people who were driven to excess building will decide to stick with their dated, but perfectly serviceable homes. It won’t completely stop development, but the “beat the clock” construction mentality will subside, and we will once again be able to enjoy our beautiful little mountain town.