Aspen government officials ‘stop, go’ on residential development

Residential construction in downtown Aspen on Monday, December 27, 2021 (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

Aspen elected officials ended the year of unprecedented property speculation when they brutally curbed residential development and the issuance of short-term rental permits via an emergency ordinance.

Aspen city council and staff plan to strike hard in early 2022 to begin the complicated and controversial work to align city government policies and the land use code with what they see as non-growth. attenuated in the residential area of ​​the community.

The residential moratorium is in place until June 8, with the short-term rental break due to end after September 30.

Prior to these dates, the city will hire external consultants to help the community development team implement the new policies and regulations.

These policy changes and the scope of work will be led by the council, which will be discussed in public meetings in January, according to Phillip Supino, the city’s director of community development.

“We want to work diligently to meet the directives of the board,” he said. “We really want to bypass the start of the process to get to work.”

By February, a community engagement process will begin that will include members from the real estate, development and vacation rental industries, as well as non-industrial residents.

“All kinds of citizens” are invited to join the process, Supino said, adding that he is asking the public to follow the work through council agendas, the media and the community development service newsletter. “We are excited about the level of interest in the community and it is important for the board to have this membership. “

There is currently opposition mounting against the moratorium with a citizen-initiated ordinance that seeks to repeal the council’s actions.

Its organizers, local realtors Bill Guth and Bob Bowden, had the language of their draft order approved by City Clerk Nicole Henning on Friday.

They have up to 180 days to collect 993 signatures from registered voters in Aspen, which represents 15% of the electorate.

If they are successful and all signatures are certified by Henning, the board has 20 days from there to revise the order.

If council rejects the initiative, it will go to a special election no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days from the elected officials’ decision, according to city attorney Jim True, citing state law.

Guth said on Monday the initiative is available for city voters to sign at Garfield and Hecht PC law firm Aspen.

Other signing venues and opportunities have yet to be determined, he added.

Those working in the development community will be invited to participate as subject matter experts when the work reaches a more detailed level regarding changes to affordable housing mitigation calculations for new growth and other potential regulations. of the land use code.

“We kind of build the plane while we fly it,” Supino said. “We will have a model ready and by February we will have the right resources for the staff in place. “

Council members expressed support earlier this month for paying outside consultants to help city staff cope with the workload, and Supino said the internal team was considering 12 different vendors who could potentially fall into place. join the effort.

“The direction of the board was to bring in the best resources while being good stewards of the public purse,” he said.

One of the most significant changes likely to result from the moratorium is to link the land use code to the city’s climate action plan, which has never been done before, Supino noted.

City officials, as noted in Ordinance 27 which put in place the moratorium on December 8, cite negative effects on the environment due to the rapid pace of redevelopment of open market residences.

These properties require construction vehicles, consume energy, require materials from elsewhere, and produce solid waste, among other impacts.

Specific to the residential sector, cars and trucks on the road contribute 11% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Aspen and construction trucks account for 50% of vehicles on the road in the city in a year, according to the reports. city ​​officials.

In 2019, residential properties accounted for 29% of Aspen’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and 75% of the landfill is currently filled with construction and demolition waste, according to the city.

City officials further argue that the impacts of speculative real estate activity are putting negative pressures on the local workforce, available housing and the quality of life that is mimicked in the Aspen region community plan, which is a policy document used to make political decisions. .

The pause on residential development for up to six months and the issuance of permits on short-term rentals up to nine months is to allow city officials to align current land use code regulations, l ‘AACP and the Affordable Housing Program in an attempt to mitigate the growth and changing uses in the local real estate market.

The idea for the moratorium was organically created as board members, in recent months, have individually voiced concerns to high-level staff members who have pushed the initiative forward, Supino said.

“This is the meeting of ideas in response to statements of concerns made by council members,” he said.

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