Thankfully, it’s not over yet
December 12, 2006
Aspen, CO ColoradoI interrupt my regular column, written over the weekend, for a special news flash from City Hall: the enactment of an emergency moratorium ordinance that will allow the council time to look into ways to further tighten the knot on development. Yes!The original moratorium put a hold on new building applications and now emergency Ordinance 51 calls for a six-month moratorium on the change of interiors in buildings in the core. This issue has never been addressed and is a tool to decrease the likelihood of change of use.The Aspen Times building, for instance, could be sold to a time-share enterprise, but its present interior would not (to say the least) lend itself to such a clientele.We have recently been watching the demise, the threat of demise, and the “refurbishing” of some of our most treasured places: the Boomerang Lodge, the Isis (rescued), Explore Booksellers, the Cooper Street Pier, the Hotel Jerome and the Red Onion to name a short list.We would gnash our teeth, tear our hair and howl at the moon, but the desecration (they call it “change,” or “progress”) ground over us like a gigantic earthmover and there seemed to be no stopping it.I know I gave up. Every time a new atrocity was proposed, the course of events was predictable. Planning and Zoning would approve it. City staff would recommend it. City Council would whittle at it with dull knives until the client screamed, then they too would approve it and the developer (smiling) would end up getting more than he expected.There were, after all, rules. If the letter of the land-use code was met, how could the project be rejected out of hand?Unfortunately the land-use code actually favored developers, allowing them extra height, penthouses and other free-market units to serve as the financial “engine” for development, triggering a flood of applications and the construction chaos we’re presently living with.These are the rules that are being considered very meticulously at the council’s work sessions which, though they are open to all, are sparsely attended by the public and the press. Be prepared for some major surprises.I never thought it would happen, but now we have a City Council that isn’t going to lie down for developers. The first moratorium was put in place to reexamine the land-use codes in general and bring them in line with the Aspen Community Plan. Now, in an even bolder move, salvation of building interiors are under scrutiny.And I, for one, say more power to them and God bless.Su Lum is a longtime local who thought it was over. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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