What’s coming next for moratorium?
January 30, 2007
ASPEN After several hours of discussions at a work session Tuesday night, the Aspen City Council wants to explore new directions, which will take more time. That likely means another extension to the current moratorium, set to end Feb. 28. Community Development Director Chris Bendon said he will propose extending the moratorium at the council’s Feb. 12 meeting because the ideas it wants to explore aren’t “in fine enough form” to meet the deadline.The council essentially gutted the first draft of regulations to pace development in the city, and it sent Bendon and his staff back to the drawing table to work out some new ideas.The draft proposed a lottery for building permits to control the pace of development, but many members of the public said that might be jumping the gun.Local developer and former City Councilman Tim Semrau questioned the presumption that the city’s current pacing mechanism, its growth management system, can’t be amended to solve the problem.That system gives a limited number of annual allotments for projects that earn the necessary approvals. The system currently works on a first-approved, first-served basis.”The premise I’m hearing is the upstream growth management system has failed in the past couple of years, and you’re jumping to a downstream system” with a lottery, he said.Semrau suggested looking at why that system has failed to control the pace of construction in recent years, namely that infill codes removed lodges from the allotment system and that affordable housing and other public projects are exempt from allotment limitations.The limited annual allotments help stem new growth, but some members of the public, and the council, wondered if the system could be amended to control the pace of redevelopment as well. Many redevelopment projects in town also include some new development, often new free-market and affordable housing units.The council previously directed Bendon to consider ways of weighting projects that do more than meet the city’s bare minimum requirements, a so-called “beauty contest” approach that Councilwoman Jasmine Tygre said she still favored. The city used to employ such a system, but Tygre said it failed because projects that were too different sometimes ended up in competition with one another, to the detriment of the individual projects and the town. For example, a small lodge, which might be of value in the community, couldn’t compete with a larger hotel that offered a conference room or other valuable amenities.Tygre, Mayor Helen Klanderud and Councilman Torre told Bendon to explore ways of tinkering with the “upstream” process of approving projects and awarding allotments.Others at Tuesday’s meeting questioned whether the solution might not be to mitigate the means of construction itself, rather than the amount.Darin Rienks, of Rienks Custom Homes, is working on several construction projects himself, and he said he could see ways to tighten the rules for construction sites.Using different compressors and quieter nail guns, for example, might be “a pain in the neck” for him, but they’re not out of the question for controlling noise.Construction-related parking is as big a hassle for him as for the rest of the community, he said. He’s already spent $15,000 on parking passes for one project, and it’s still not enough.Simply asking workers to ride the bus is more complicated than it sounds, however, particularly because of the tools many of them carry with them.Nonetheless, Rienks saw room for improvement.”There’s definitely more things we could be doing,” he said.At Klanderud’s request, Bendon also threw an entirely different idea on the table.The city could also consider regulations that prohibit construction on one project if it’s within a certain distance of another project that’s under way. That would limit the effects within certain neighborhoods.But, he said, there also might be situations where it would be an advantage for several projects to run simultaneously in the same neighborhood to minimize some of the shared impacts.Bendon said his staff hadn’t had a chance to explore the details of such a plan so far.He also said the council’s Feb. 5 meeting on commercial design standards might shed further light on how to improve the upstream approval process, especially with respect to giving priority to better projects.Coming out of Tuesday’s work session, the one certainty is that the council will not be discussing a pacing mechanism for redevelopment of single-family and duplex residences. Council members agreed Tuesday to eliminate that piece from the moratorium discussion.Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org