What are we chopped liver? | AspenTimes.com

What are we chopped liver?

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT Two members of the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission have resigned to protest the town councils approval of an emergency moratorium on development applications and a third resigned in part over the move.Planning commission members Rick Stevens and Brian Davies resigned soon after the council imposed the moratorium June 10. Their resignations were effective immediately.Brian Dillard announced at the planning commission meeting last week he will resign from the volunteer board as soon as new members are appointed. Dillard said he will stay on so the commission retains a quorum and can conduct business.The planning commission is a voluntary board that advises the council on land-use matters. Members are appointed by the Town Council.Stevens, a former Basalt mayor, said the council showed a lack of respect for the planning commission by failing to consult with it about the moratorium.My biggest concern is, what are we chopped liver? Stevens asked.He said there was not even a hint that the moratorium was being contemplated before it was passed as an emergency ordinance without prior public disclosure. Stevens said he couldnt work in a situation where there is no trust. He urged other planning commission members to resign as well.The criticism isnt stinging the council. It will consider Tuesday if the two-week-old moratorium should be expanded to include annexation requests from landowners who want their property added within the town boundaries.The board voted 5-1 on June 10 to approve a nine-month moratorium. It prevents consideration of major new applications that havent already received first-round approval from the council. Mayor Leroy Duroux opposed the moratorium because he said he doesnt sense an emergency.Basalt members Gary Tennenbaum, Amy Capron, Jacque Whitsitt, Peter McBride and Katie Schwoerer approved the measure.Whitsitt said the moratorium is necessary for the town to consider regulations like a growth management quota system and more stringent affordable housing requirements.We need to consider where does Basalt want to be in 50 years not where does the developer want to be in two years, Whitsitt said.But to some observers, the moratorium appears to be another step in a never-ending series of studies of growth and plans to deal with it. The town government hired consultants and enlisted numerous citizens earlier this decade to draw up a River Master Plan, which maps development and open space opportunities along the towns rivers, and identifies strategies to ease flood threats. Little of that plan has been implemented.The town government updated its land-use master plan last year after years of meetings and working with consultants.P&Z member Dillard said the volunteer board placed an incredible amount of time and effort into the master plan update. The document defines where development should occur and what type of development the town would welcome. Now the council decides it needs more regulations.It doesnt make sense to me, Dillard said.Davies said he resigned in part because other commitments dont allow him to attend as many meetings as the position requires. The moratorium played a role in his departure. Like Dillard, he expressed frustration that all the time and effort went into the master plan only to have the council decide new studies and regulations are needed. It seems like back to square one, he said.The moratorium was actually needed when the planning commission was working on the master plan, Davies said. The town kept processing applications, piling work onto the planning commission. So it isnt the moratorium itself that bothers Davies, just the way it is being applied.I agree with the tactic. In this case I question the reasons, he said.Tennenbaum said the criticism from Stevens and Dillard, in particular, comes as no surprise. They were unsuccessful candidates for the Town Council in the last election and were topped by candidates with stricter views on growth.It’s been obvious that we don’t align with the ideas of at least Brian (Dillard) and Rick, Tennenbaum said.While he would have liked them to stay, he said this presents an opportunity for the council to appoint new members of the planning commission that share the councils vision for Basalt.Tennenbaum said the master plan set incredible vision, but he and Whitsitt agreed it doesnt provide all the tools the town needs to implement the vision. The towns land-use code, the actual rules that dictate growth, need changes in areas like growth management and affordable housing requirements, they said.Whitsitt said the only feedback she has received about the moratorium has been positive.I really believe the majority of Basalt is concerned about growth, thinks the growth rate is too fast and is happy to see us try to address it, she said.scondon@aspentimes.com