Weiss: New threat to the backcountry | AspenTimes.com

Weiss: New threat to the backcountry

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

In the 1990s, the Rural and Remote Zoning plus the Transferable Development Rights program were established to preserve the backcountry from development and relocate it within the urban growth boundary. Local government had the vision to protect open space and the backcountry as an important amenity for locals and our guests.

The TDR program sterilized 5,000 acres from development on the back of Aspen Mountain (a Rural and Remote Zone) and other scenic areas in the county that needed protection. The TDR system allows mining claims and in-holdings to build a 1,000-square-foot cabin within the Rural & Remote Zones or receive a 2,500-square-foot development right (TDR) that they could sell.

From 1996 to 2018, 389 TDRs were issued, transferring 972,500 square feet of development.

Now there is a new threat to the backcountry: short-term rentals in the Rural and Remote Zones.

Owners of cabins in Rural and Remote Zones are seeking short-term rental permits for group events that would harm the backcountry with noise and vehicular traffic generated by guests, catering, party supplies, furniture, trash removal and other services that have to be trucked in and out of these very sensitive areas.

The owners of these backcountry cabins say that it’s only for friends and family. Irrelevant. STR permits are for the purpose of rentals where money changes hands.

The TDR program would be useless if traffic-generating businesses are allowed in the backcountry.

Even if you don’t care about Aspen Mountain, it won’t be long before this intrusive business spreads to other scenic and tranquil places in the county.

Pitkin County commissioners Greg Poschman and Kelly McNicholas Kury have expressed their opposition to the potential damage. If you care about the backcountry, please reach out to the other commissioners and tell them no to short-term rental permits in the Rural and Remote Zones.

Cliff Weiss