Let the Aspen Area Community Plan be our guide

Like many, I support our six-month emergency moratorium. Residential construction and short-term rentals (STRs) have blown up. “Give me a break!” is the chorus around town. The pandemic and accompanying real estate frenzy have accelerated fundamental changes. Longtime residents talk about moving. It’s very alarming and extremely heartbreaking.

Our Aspen Area Community Plan (AACP) is referred to as the basis for government decisions. But, who has read, understands and appreciates our community’s values and goals noted in the AACP?

We have about 1,000 construction sites with a population of about 7,000 people. Development drives about one third of our traffic. But, too much is never enough for some. In New Aspen, our community is reduced to a mere commodity.

Regarding construction, according to the AACP, “Intense periods of construction activity compromise our community character and the long-term sustainability of the visitor-based economy. Therefore, we must coordinate amendments to the City and County codes to manage the impacts of construction. The purpose of managing construction impacts is to maintain our high quality of life by limiting traffic congestion, noise, dust, disturbances, air pollution and the disruption of the visual and aesthetic character of our neighborhoods and the downtown area. This plan calls for a renewed focus on managing the impacts of intense construction activity.”

Regarding our residential sector, the AACP states: “While some potential remains for residential development on vacant lots, the primary source of future residential construction will be redevelopment. History shows that residential redevelopment typically means the demolition of existing homes which are then replaced with expanded structures that are almost always built to the maximum square footage allowed a trend that has had many negative impacts on our community.”

We have about 1,500 STRs in Aspen, houses utilized like luxury hotels. STRs disrupt our neighborhoods and reduce rentals for residents. Regarding our lodging sector, the AACP states: “Zoning and land use processes should result in lodging development that is compatible and appropriate within the context of the neighborhood, in order to: Create certainty in land development. Prioritize maintaining our mountain views. Protect our existing lodges. Protect our small town community character and historical heritage. Limit consumption of energy and building materials. Limit the burden on public infrastructure and ongoing public operating costs. Reduce short- and long-term job generation impacts, such as traffic congestion and demand for affordable housing.”

Our Ecological Bill of Rights (AACP) notes, “The right to be free from excessive noise. The right to see the night sky without the interference of unnecessary artificial light from growth, urbanization and highway development. The right to the absolute minimum involuntary exposure to toxic chemicals, radioactive substances and energy forms that is hazardous to health.”

Without a healthy environment, we can’t have a healthy economy.

Erik Skarvan