Work on Aspen community plan may extend into summer
ASPEN – In early January, city of Aspen and Pitkin County officials laid out a timeline that called for an April adoption of the long-awaited rewrite of the Aspen Area Community Plan.Now, with the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board and others in the community asking for various revisions to the document, the city and county approval process is expected to extend well into June. And officials say the process could go past June, further into the summer – especially if the City Council seeks major revisions of its own after the city and county planning commissions are finished with nearly 2.5 years of work on the plan.Chris Bendon, director of the city’s Community Development Department, said while those working on the 2011 AACP would like to be finished, there’s no rule that says it has to be completed by a certain deadline. “I don’t think there’s any surprise there,” Bendon said of the extended timeline for completing the plan. “That’s kind of the way the schedules have worked on this project, unfortunately.”By the time the document is ready for City Council review and approval, there will be at least one new face on the council. Two of four council seats are up for election on May 3, as well as the seat belonging to the mayor, who also has a vote on city matters.At the county level, the AACP will be approved by the county P&Z, not the Board of County Commissioners. It has been said that the BOCC will use the AACP as more of a guiding document, while at the city level, the document will carry more regulatory weight.”The P&Zs want to be able to review the entire document as one document in May,” Bendon said. “And (until then) we want full participation from ACRA and whoever else wants to shape the document.”Aspen councilmen, he said, have had some discussions on the substance of the document, but not a lot.”It’s a little bit up in the air as to what their review will look like,” Bendon said. The new council, which will be seated in June, could conduct a simple review with approval, or they could tackle revisions on their own. Or, they could ask the P&Zs to go back and take another look at the plan.A draft of the AACP was released in September. Since that time, city and county planners have sought more community input on the document, holding “clicker sessions” to gauge opinions on certain aspects of the plan and even mailing out a new survey to local residents. Meanwhile, the two planning and zoning commissions have spent numerous hours on chapter revisions.In late January, ACRA board members expressed concerns about the document and said they wanted the city to adjust its timetable to allow more time for chamber members to assist with the rewrite. At their board meeting on Tuesday, chamber officials further discussed their concerns and said they planned to attend a joint P&Z meeting Tuesday evening to ensure that the dialogue keeps moving forward.ACRA board chairman Warren Klug said while the overall AACP falls short on many levels, there’s still time to make changes with input from the business community.”I look at ACRA as the only official business committee and lobbying group in town. And we want to make sure the economic impact of what’s been discussed is truly considered,” he said during Tuesday’s board meeting.Klug said representatives of the chamber, such as David Corbin, Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of planning and development, and local planner Stan Clauson, have done a good job of keeping up with work on the AACP over the last few years and making suggestions.But now ACRA is asking more of its board members to take an active role in the revisions by attending P&Z work sessions where the chapter revisions are under way.”While we appreciate all the work that’s been done up to now, it’s important that we jump in more than we have in the past,” Klug said.ACRA President Debbie Braun said it’s encouraging that the revised schedule for both planning commissions to revise and hold hearings on the AACP now continues through May.”It gives everybody ample time to really look at the document and make those suggestions and really add that flavor that we’re still looking for,” she said.”Wrapping it up in May is a whole lot better than wrapping it up sooner,” Klug added.David Perry, senior vice president of Skico, said ACRA’s presence at future P&Z meetings is going to be critical.”I think we’ve had a good audience from the P&Zs, where they’ve certainly showed a willingness to listen to our input. And now they are redrafting, chapter by chapter, so now is the time to stay engaged,” he said.Klug said the community plan will have a huge impact on the area’s future. It contains suggested governmental action items that seek to implement various philosophies on growth and development into the city’s land-use code.He pointed out that the current draft contains some inconsistencies.”The city is always anxious to encourage moderately priced lodging and housing, and yet, how can that happen when they have restrictions in this document that suggest huge (employee) housing mitigations,” Klug said. But, work is progressing, with ACRA’s input, to straighten out such problems so that the document is more realistic, he said.Board member Helen Klanderud, a former Aspen mayor, said one area of concern is the chapter on the “Lifelong Aspenite.” It deals with aspirations for future health and human services operations of government, nonprofits and private entities in assisting local residents from birth through adult life.”If you’re involved in nonprofits, particularly health and human service nonprofits, you really need to take a good look at that chapter,” she said. “A lot of what is suggested in there … you’ve got to ask yourself, where is the funding for this going to come?”She said the “Lifelong Aspenite” seems to infer that “from the cradle to the grave, we will take care of you.” Klug said the AACP should contain a cost-benefit analysis attached to whatever major suggestions are made. He said the plan makes general assumptions about continual economic growth and a steady revenue stream which may not be accurate over the near future.Bendon said the chamber’s request for a cost-benefit analysis on each of the AACP’s suggestions, as well as a new economic study, are unlikely prior to the plan’s adoption.However, he said ACRA’s input and participation on P&Z revisions are welcome. He said the chamber’s recent arrival into the thick of the process is not entirely what led to the change in the approval timetable.”This schedule (change) might have happened regardless,” Bendon firstname.lastname@example.org
A Feb. 15 memorandum from ACRA President Debbie Braun to the planning and zoning commissions of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County contains these concerns about the current status of the 2011 Aspen Area Community Plan:• Too much focus on Aspen as a small town and doesn’t distinguish we are an internationally renowned resort.• Overall tenor of plan seems too punitive in nature and very backward thinking.• No economic report included in the current plan – what will this cost us?• Thought the plan was an update; it’s become more of a full rewrite.• Worried about the regulatory portion of the plan; seems to belong in the land-use code not the aspirational document.• No outside consultants used in areas of the resort and economics.• The ACRA executive committee thought some of the survey work which was recently sent out was relying on the community, which might not have any expertise (i.e. size of lodging units, etc.)• Document does not address what a 21st century resort should look like.
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