Think big picture with film shoots
December 18, 2009
It would be easy to chastise the Pitkin County commissioners for their reluctance to loosen regulations on film and commercial shoots, but we think they’re on the right track.
During a recession, policy makers are routinely urged to lift regulations and thus stimulate more economic activity. But Aspen and Pitkin County have traveled that road before, and generally it does not make for sound, long-term policy.
Remember the infill regulations that were supposed to invite redevelopment in downtown Aspen after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the subsequent downturn? It wasn’t long before Aspenites were begging for stiffer regulations to stop the noise, traffic, dust and other disturbances caused by the overheated construction industry.
Aspen doesn’t exactly have a plague of film shoots to control, so there may be room for some minor adjustments to reduce red tape and bring more film crews to the area.
But on the whole, a fairly restrictive policy on such activities reflects an overall community wish – repeated in everything from local land-use regulations to sign codes and noise ordinances – that Aspen and Pitkin County avoid rampant growth, preserve small-town character and protect the mountain environment.
Earlier this week, the commissioners discussed lowering fees for film and commercial crews, lifting a ban on helicopters used in film shoots and reducing the role of citizen input in applications from film and commercial producers. But in the end they weren’t inclined to change their existing rules.
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With so many locals unemployed or at least underemployed, a move by the county to attract more film crews and thus rent more rooms, collect more fees and sell more meals might sound like a good idea.
In the long term, however, Aspen should remain true to the values expressed in the Aspen Area Community Plan, which puts quality of life and mountain-town character first. Thanks to those values, and their expression in numerous local laws, we still have open spaces on our valley floor, views of the surrounding mountains, a human-scale downtown and no billboards on Highway 82. And down the road, those values will continue to benefit us economically and set us apart from run-of-the-mill resorts.
Film shoots and their associated disturbances aren’t in the same league with mega-developments, construction traffic and other local threats, but nonetheless they should follow a similar set of rules.