Aspen City Council creates problem without solution |

Aspen City Council creates problem without solution

The Aspen Home Rule Charter vests emergency powers to council in the very limited circumstances — “preservation of public property, health, peace or safety.” (Section 4.11). An example of proper use was the response to COVID-19, Ord. 18 (2020).

Now citing construction trucks, the landfill running out of space, unoccupied homes and accelerating real estate values as reasons for emergency action on residential development, obviously the statutory authority cannot apply. So council by fiat added a new category not found in the Charter, “general wellbeing,” as a predicate for emergency action in Ordinance 27. The five Chicken Littles have now given themselves the means to ameliorate any social ill that causes panic in the coop.

Never mind the lesson of history that emergency legislation as a cure to land-use issues only exacerbates the situation. Consider ill-fated Ordinance 30 (2007) dealing with historic development. When the dust cleared after reversals and revisions, and yes admissions that recourse to emergency action under Section 4.11 was inappropriate, a mountain of new applications awaited the city. Importantly, it took more than three years of debate for comprehensive legislation to emerge.

Same here, a moratorium uncoupled to a proposed solution is destined to fail. So what are the prospects here of a “reasoned discussion” and “desired amendments to the land use code” as goals set forth in the ordinance? That does not even satisfy the ha-ha test.

Neil Siegel



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