Milias: Destroying Aspen’s neighborhoods with Ordinance 14 |

Milias: Destroying Aspen’s neighborhoods with Ordinance 14

Elizabeth Milias
The Red Ant
Elizabeth Milias

The recent passage of Ordinance 14 that changed local land-use policy to allow for the development of residential multi-family, subsidized-housing complexes in all zone districts in Aspen is already wreaking havoc in long-established, local neighborhoods.

In short, whether it be in the West End, off Cemetery Lane or in Oklahoma Flats, Aspen’s few remaining vacant lots are being quickly snapped up and slated for massive development that fulfills City Council’s utopian decision to shoehorn high-density public housing into incongruous, quiet confines via quick, administrative review processes.

It is widely known that Aspen’s subsidized-housing program is a dumpster fire, but this latest move, which passed 5-0 in typical City Council echo-chamber fashion, is a disgusting overreach and stunning rebuke of the Aspen Area Community Plan, our community guiding and philosophical document. In fact, the Community Plan is revered as the holy grail when its plans of action to achieve “community goals” suit the city and its leaders. But, when its aspirational and visionary principles are applied to the vilified free-market homeowners who make subsidized housing in Aspen possible, it is quickly ignored.

For all the talk of Aspen’s modesty-scaled built environment and the critical need to preserve our small town character, forcing large, dense, subsidized housing complexes into inadequate spaces in quiet residential neighborhoods is antithetical to the community values espoused in the AACP.

But, given the no-longer-thinly-veiled disdain for free-market property owners, these neighborhoods be damned. Subsidized housing belongs everywhere now. And, the result is that the AACP has become a hypocritical manifesto serving to support some and to distinctly punish others.

The central themes of the AACP, last updated in 2012, are to maintain community character and quality of life, re-evaluate the impacts of development, manage the adverse effects of development and explore zoning solutions that re-affirm our small-town heritage.

Notably, this maintenance, re-evaluation, management and exploration is directed specifically at curbing and controlling free-market activity — never subsidized-housing development. In the city’s eyes, such development is without effect or impact, when, in reality, building dense multi-family complexes in residential neighborhoods is akin to allowing a boisterous pub or gas station in those same locations: completely wrong and detrimental to the small-town neighborhood character that is so regularly referenced.

Throughout the advisory document, highfalutin’ community aspirations abound but are thrown by the wayside when private-property owners seek to, God forbid, preserve their quality of life and the quiet enjoyment of their properties. The AACP no longer applies to them, if it ever did. In fact, this new subsidized-housing-development legislation flies directly in the face of many critical tenets of the document:

Governance: The AACP states that good governance is transparent, participatory, inclusive, collaborative, civil, consensus-oriented, responsive, effective, efficient and accountable. Just because Ordinance 14 passed unanimously at the council table in no way makes the resulting legislation inclusive, collaborative or civil. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The punitive intent and overt destruction of property values is being proudly celebrated as a “win” toward City Council’s wealth redistribution goals.

The Aspen Idea:  The AACP reminds that we value authentic engagement with others, including civil discourse about the community we want to create and maintain. This collaboration is intended to create common ground to reduce stratification in the town. Right. The community we want to create and maintain should never intentionally support such deliberate preference for some over others. We are already seeing the opening battles of an unprecedented class war. This legislation makes things dramatically worse.

Growth Management: The AACP condemns recent growth, defined as an increase in population, jobs, infrastructure, demand for services and an increase in the size of buildings that is inconsistent with the history, scale, density and context of our small town character.

It says that limiting mass and scale limits the public financial burden of additional infrastructure and government operations and housing mitigation offsets impacts on the community: schools, roads, public transit, water, sewer and traffic. But, the city does not view the development of subsidized housing as any kind of growth. Only free-market development causes that! Hundreds more full-time, year-round residents will mysteriously have zero impact on our critical infrastructure.

Housing: Long cited in historical AACPs, “(subsidized) housing should be compatible with the scale and character of the community,” and, notably, new subsidized housing “should demonstrate compatibility with the massing, scale and character of the neighborhood.” That is, until it’s convenient to simply ignore this clear stipulation because it no longer supports the narrative.

City Council is out of control. They are hell-bent on pursuing their unrealistic subsidized housing goals at any cost — even if it means throwing out the AACP. New housing development before any comprehensive, true needs assessment is virtue signaling at its worst. Instead of moving the needle to address any aspect of our “housing crisis,” which is distinctly not a shortage, such activity will cause real and lasting damage to our community and in no way will this be limited to the wealthy second-homeowners who they hate. The desecration of the AACP negatively impacts all of us.

Destroying others’ property values will not make Aspen more affordable, just uglier. Contact