Will it be death by red tape? | AspenTimes.com

Will it be death by red tape?

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” The Basalt Town Council decided not to expand a moratorium on major development applications Tuesday, but it approved slowing a review process that developers claimed is already dreadfully slow.

The council approved a moratorium on major applications June 10 to buy time to work on updates to its land-use code. Tuesday night, the board considered applying the moratorium to projects seeking annexation into the town. Those projects were exempt from the initial moratorium because the council has extraordinary powers to dictate the terms when it annexes property into the town. In short, it can ask for the world because it has leverage.

For that reason, the council voted 5-1 not to subject annexation requests to the moratorium. The town government is currently reviewing four major projects that require annexation.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt argued to include annexations in the stoppage. She said the only way the town government will have enough time to work on changes to its land use is if it reduces time spent reviewing development applications. The moratorium is in effect for nine months. That won’t be enough time if the town continues to review all projects in the pipeline, Whitsitt said. She voted to stop review of the four annexation requests and not accept any new applications.

Whitsitt said the town has to determine how much growth is can absorb.

The other five council members approved a recommendation from the planning staff to slow, but not stop, the review process for annexation requests. Time would be dedicated to work on new code rules, but annexations wouldn’t be completely ignored. If that doesn’t provide the time the council and planning staff needs to work on code amendments, a “cooling off period” could be applied to annexation requests at a later time, planning director Susan Philp said.

Developers urged the board to keep the process moving. Briston Peterson, the representative of the owners of the Stott’s Mill project, said Basalt’s review process is already slow. He claimed the project has been in the process for 31⁄2 years to 4 years. (A Basalt staff member disputed that claim after the meeting.)

“The process in itself is a moratorium,” Peterson said.

Representatives of other development projects said their projects already include a heavy dose of affordable housing. It makes no sense for those applications to be delayed while working on regulations requiring affordable housing, they claimed. Instead, they pressed for approvals so they can build that housing.

David Corbin, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of planning and development, sparked a mini-controversy when he suggested that placing a moratorium on annexation requests could force developers to turn to other jurisdictions for approval. The Skico has two properties on the fringe of Basalt that it is considering for employee housing projects. Forcing developers to seek approvals by Pitkin or Eagle counties, both of which border Basalt, isn’t in the best interests of the community, Corbin said.

Whitsitt said she was surprised to hear the Skico “threat” to shop its projects with other jurisdictions. “I have to throw out the county threat because I don’t think there is one,” she said. The counties have agreements with Basalt that give the town special clout on developments proposed next to its borders.