Letter: Market forces, not government pacing
November 3, 2014
I am greatly dismayed to read that the mayor once again will be discussing construction pacing. This has been discussed many times and it will not work. Construction and development should and will occur based on market forces including the availability of financing. Government's intervention inevitably leads to unintended consequences. The current downtown Aspen construction boom can be laid squarely at the feet of Mick Ireland, Torre and the past City Council for threatening an emergency moratorium and radically changing height regulations which reasonably and inevitably resulted in many property owners dramatically accelerating their development plans to preserve their property rights. The proposed emergency moratorium and change in height limits was a huge mistake, and further attempts to control the pace of construction will lead to unintended consequences and the deterioration of our community. Aspen's history is littered with regulatory initiatives that had negative unintended consequences: Ordinance 30, which lead to the demolition of free market housing, 1970s lodging regulations that hamstrung efforts to maintain and improve lodging, 1980s affordable housing focus that converted small lodges to affordable housing, 70s anti-growth regulations that merged lots and created big houses instead of a community of small houses on small lots.
Instead of trying to control the pace of construction and permitting, the city would be better served to focus on the time required to complete construction activities. A 50-story building can be built in 24 months in the downtown congestion of nearly any American city, but a 2- to 3-story building requires as long or longer to build in downtown Aspen. Why is this? In my opinion, this is because the Aspen regulatory process focuses on heavy regulation and control instead of facilitating and demanding efficient construction practices. City staffing and training must be sufficient to inspect and administrate building processes without delay. City building regulations should carefully consider and balance the impacts of regulations on the duration of construction activities. Efficient building schedules should be rewarded and extended construction schedules should be penalized.