Two more months for moratorium |

Two more months for moratorium

ASPEN Aspen’s moratorium groundhog has seen his shadow. It looks like there will be two more months of the current freeze on building permits and applications.On Monday night, the City Council approved the first reading of an emergency ordinance to extend the moratorium to the end of April. Although emergency ordinances don’t require public input, the council will take public comment before voting on the ordinance at its Feb. 26 meeting.This is the second time the council has extended the building ban. Implemented April 25, the moratorium originally was set to end Oct. 31, but in September, the council extended it until the end of February.In a memo to the council suggesting the latest extension, Community Development Director Chris Bendon notes that his staff and the council have “made progress” toward outlining the council’s new direction for the city’s land-use codes and drafting those revisions. But, he wrote, “the time needed to complete these revisions will exceed the current termination date of February 28.”At several earlier meetings, all the council members said they wanted to make sure there was ample time to review the revisions and hear from the public on the proposed changes. The council’s meeting schedule for the rest of February doesn’t allow for the required advance notice for a public hearing.Bendon suggested the council adopt the ordinance as an “emergency” to avoid a flood of applications under the old codes. Ordinarily, an ordinance doesn’t take effect for 30 days, but emergency ordinances go into effect immediately upon adoption.The ordinance does allow for a number of proposals submitted before the moratorium to receive building permits, however, if they earn approval through the necessary review process. Among them are the Boomerang Lodge, the Jewish Community Center and the Hotel Jerome, which have earned the council’s approval and received development orders. That means the clock is ticking on those projects’ vested rights.Stage 3, the Wienerstube, La Comida and the Jerome Professional building are among a handful of projects still working their way through the approval process to earn a development order. Those projects, too, will be allowed to apply for building permits before the end of the moratorium, if necessary.M2: the commercial coreThe council is also considering allowing exceptions to a second moratorium, unofficially known as “M2,” on the interiors of buildings in the city’s commercial core. If approved, projects that return a building “to a longstanding established business and/or use that demonstrates at least 40 years of continuous operation in Aspen” could be exempt from the moratorium.City Clerk Kathryn Koch said the plan under discussion for the Red Onion likely would be able to move forward if the council agrees to allow the exemption.Interior spaces that were vacant when the council imposed the second moratorium would be exempt as well.”Preserving vacant spaces downtown does not seem to meet the intentions of the emergency moratorium and places an unintended burden on property owners trying to lease their space,” Bendon wrote in a memo to the council.Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission would still have an “advisory role” in which interiors could be exempted, and Bendon would make final decisions about which interior elements must be preserved and whether to allow a change in use.The council will consider changes to both moratoriums at its Feb. 26 meeting.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is

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