Special meeting to tackle Aspen building heights | AspenTimes.com

Special meeting to tackle Aspen building heights

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Ideas for limiting the heights of new or redeveloped buildings in downtown Aspen are up for discussion at Monday’s special meeting of the City Council.

The meeting gets under way at 5 p.m. at Aspen City Hall. A public hearing on ordinances to amend the land-use code is scheduled. Final decisions aren’t expected Monday, and the discussions likely will continue at the council’s regular meeting on April 9.

Having obtained feedback in recent months from the council as well as members of the city Planning and Zoning Commission, staffers in the Community Development Department are recommending a 4-foot reduction in the maximum height of future projects within the confines of the commercial core and the adjacent C-1 commercial district. In the core, the maximum height would be reduced to 38 feet from the current cap of 42 feet. In the C-1 district, it would fall to 36 feet from 40 feet.

Jessica Garrow, the city’s long-range planner, said changes not only are being sought by council members but also reflect the desires of local residents as expressed through the recently adopted rewrite of the Aspen Area Community Plan.

The plan’s chapter titled “Managing Growth for Community and Economic Sustainability” contains a policy item that states, “Establish lower maximum building heights to maintain Aspen’s small-town character.” A memorandum from Garrow to the council also says that the same chapter calls for an examination of the city’s commercial districts

“Ensure that the city land-use code results in (commercial) development that reflects our architectural heritage in terms of site coverage, mass, sale, density and a diversity of heights,” the memo says.

Council members hope to reach a consensus on the acceptable minimum height needed for a three-story building. City staffers plan to go over options for reducing heights while still allowing three-story structures. Based on the municipal building code’s minimum ceiling height of 7 feet, 6 inches – and factoring in the necessary 2 feet of structure and mechanical equipment – the absolute minimum height of a three-story building would be 28 feet, 6 inches.

“Staff cannot recommend in favor of this option as it will result in buildings that are entirely unrelated to Aspen’s built environment, historic pattern, pedestrian scale, and the reality of ceiling heights needed to conduct commercial operations,” Garrow wrote. “This standard will result in buildings that appear ‘compressed’ and will not relate well to the existing development pattern.”

In recent months, Mayor Mick Ireland has said that a reduction to a 38-foot maximum height doesn’t go far enough. And at one recent meeting, Councilman Torre floated a proposal for an emergency ordinance that would limit building heights to between 28 and 32 feet but failed to garner enough council support for his measure.


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