Will the moratorium end May 31?
ASPEN Aspen’s City Council has extended the current building moratorium until the end of May, but the question remains – will that be enough time? It’s the second time the council has extended the building ban, but Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss insists it has to end before the new council takes office.”I don’t want the new council to start all over again on this,” he said Wednesday when he proposed the extension. DeVilbiss and Mayor Helen Klanderud both feared that if a new council inherits the moratorium, it could last even longer as new people begin new discussions.The mayor’s seat and two council seats are up for grabs in May. DeVilbiss and Councilman Jack Johnson, both of whom voted for the moratorium to help control growth in the city, will retain their seats.That leaves three votes in question, enough to turn the tide in the other direction.Councilman Torre said flatly “we will” finish the moratorium by the May 31 deadline: “My ambition is to get this done before the end of my current term.”At Wednesday’s meeting, he agreed with DeVilbiss that he didn’t want to see the moratorium drag on into a new council.”I want one year to be the end of it,” said Torre, who’s not seeking re-election as a councilman but has announced he will run for mayor.Torre cited the fast-approaching building season as one of his main concerns because the moratorium could interfere with “a lot of locals getting back to work.”Torre agreed to the May 31 end date, but he also asked that the council try to accelerate its meeting schedule to finish the moratorium even sooner.Local developer and one-time city councilman Tim Semrau is also running for mayor, and he says it’s imperative the council allow the public to take part in the process of changing the codes.When the current council was considering extending the moratorium only until the end of April, Semrau said it was “highly unlikely” it would finish by then and that it would be a disservice to the community to try to finish without adequate time for public input.”It’s vitally important that the public be aware of what they want to change and why they want to change it,” he said. “And if this drags on into the next administration, whoever it is, I think that’s fine.”After the council decided to extend the moratorium through the end of May, Semrau said he was “pleased” to see the extra time.”That gives them another month for proper public vetting,” he said. “My wish is they would advertise the proposed changes … and really get some public participation on what they’re trying to do.”Semrau said the moratorium was “100 percent reaction to construction stress last spring.”He called the building ban “silly” in light of the city’s previous multiyear effort to rewrite the land-use codes already. Semrau was part of an earlier council that helped draft what became known as the “infill codes,” which the city finished adopting in piecemeal fashion in 2005.Those codes aren’t perfect, he said, but he’s “interested to see what this council thinks should be changed.”Former county Commissioner Mick Ireland, who’s also running for mayor, has a somewhat different take. It’s not when the moratorium ends that matters; it’s what the next council decides to do.”No matter who’s elected, they would have the ability to repeal any regulations adopted by the current council, and they wouldn’t need a moratorium to do it,” he said.The more important issue, Ireland said, is that the moratorium end as soon as possible to give the community a sense of security.”The sooner you terminate it and adopt new regulations, the sooner people have certainty,” he said. “And certainty has value. A lot of people would like strict regulations you can rely on more than uncertainty. If you’re going to have a cost, you’d rather it be $40 than between zero and $100.”Ireland is confident the current council will finish on schedule, but there’s no way to predict whether he’ll seek to change the changes if he’s elected.”I hope the regulations they’re working on will address retail diversity, affordable housing, impact of development [and] construction mitigation rules,” he said. “I’m confident they will. Whether they’re good or not I can’t prejudge, because I haven’t seen them.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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