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Updated AACP may present some `extreme possibilities’

John Colson

Get ready for the advent of the “supercommittee” and the contemplation of “extreme possibilities,” as Aspen goes into the final phase of the update of the Aspen Area Community Plan.

The supercommittee, which planner Stephanie Millar said is “only a temporary name” for the group, will be refining the work done by a veritable army of local volunteers who are revising the AACP.

The “extreme possibilities,” Millar said, are what might happen if some of the more unconventional suggestions of citizen planners are put into effect as part of the updated AACP.

City planners are putting together a schedule of meetings from now through the end of March, starting with a meeting today, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at City Hall. This first meeting is to bring together representatives of the focus area committees, who already have spent nine months working on updating the AACP.

A second meeting, on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in City Hall, will be the first gathering of the supercommittee. At that meeting, the focus committee members will meet with the Oversight Committee, which is made up of elected and appointed officials from Aspen, Pitkin County, Snowmass Village and Basalt.

Snowmass and Basalt are being included, Millar said, because the two towns are both engaged in regional planning efforts that will be affected by the revisions to the AACP.

The focus area committees (FAC), in meetings that began late last spring, were appointed to make recommended revisions to the original AACP, which had been written five years earlier.

The FAC members, literally dozens of local volunteers, worked on specific issue areas, including growth; housing; transportation; art, culture and education; community character; historic preservation; design quality; and parks, open space and the environment.

The various FAC members recently submitted their recommended changes to the AACP to city planners. Those recommendations contained a number of conflicting priorities and “kinks,” Millar said this week. It was initially to be the job of the Oversight Committee to iron out those kinks.

But Aspen City Council members, some of whom serve on the Oversight Committee, decided more work needed to be done on the recommendations before they can begin the reconciliation process regarding conflicts.

An example of the conflicts can be seen in the recommendations of the two committees dealing separately with the issues of housing and growth. The housing committee has recommended the construction of up to 1,000 affordable housing units in the next several years. But the growth committee believes the number of units should be limited to 500, at least initially. Once 500 homes are built in the upper valley, the growth committee suggested, local governments could evaluate things to see if more such housing is needed.

One critical part of the revisions to the AACP was to be studied by a committee that never really got off the ground, the Economic Sustainability Committee, which was to examine Aspen’s economy and suggest ways to ensure its viability if critical economic sectors were to severely slow down. Although it was to be part of the revisions process, the committee never attracted sufficient participation among the AACP volunteers, and had to be shelved.

Millar said Ford Frick, a consultant who worked for the city on the Downtown Enhancement Pedestrian Plan, has been hired to begin a socioeconomic study that is to generate recommendations for the economic sustainability section of the AACP.

As part of this last phase, the various citizens and officials will be looking at scenarios of how Aspen might be affected if the more “extreme possibilities” of the AACP recommendations are put into action. These scenarios, Millar said, will only be in the areas of growth, housing, transportation and open space.

The “extreme possibilities” are what might happen if some of the more unconventional suggestions of citizen planners are put into effect.


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