Letter: Time to recognize emergency
Why is an emergency ordinance necessary as City Council’s first serious step in reforming Aspen’s land-use code? Because the council made it necessary.
Colorado state law guarantees a developer the right to use the land-use code that exists when his land-use application is filed. The city has been giving commercial developers even more rights than that. It has been handing out variances accompanied by legal advice that the developers have a property right in the variances that they don’t have under Colorado state law. If developers sniff the advent of some land-use code reform, they can flood the city with applications requesting all kinds of variances and claim they have a right to them no matter what reforms might come later.
In fact, there’s a backlog of development applications already filed that will occupy planners, architects, engineers and construction companies for several years to come. All of these will be governed by Aspen’s current land-use code and by the city’s permissive legal interpretations unnecessarily favoring developers. One well might conclude this constitutes an “emergency,” ironically one created by the city itself.
The question was how to start the process of reforming the code without inviting a flood of additional land-use applications trying to evade the new rules. If that couldn’t be done, the applications filed to beat the deadline would make a “dead letter” of any reforms.
So City Council did what it had to do, and hats off to them for having the guts to do it. Now they should expedite reforming the land-use code. The code needs a lot more reform than council might realize.