Potential land-use code changes presented by city planners don’t go far enough for Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, who at tonight’s meeting will propose capping new downtown development at two stories high, with the ability to go to a third floor only with special council approval.
The mayor’s plan would ban free market condos in the downtown core altogether, unless they are a smaller part of a development focused on overnight lodging or other uses Ireland said are better for downtown. Lodging is one of the types of development Ireland said he would support allowing to go to three stories.
Ireland said recent experience with projects that were big, driven by condo development and allowed under city rules has convinced him the change is necessary.
“I’m not interested in another” Little Annie’s or Wienerstube negotiation, he said.
“If there aren’t as many guns, the puppies will be safer,” Ireland said, using a favored metaphor for when developers threaten existing community uses unless projects are approved.
Current rules basically mean council is forced to approve “stilts built under penthouses” that drive real estate speculation and crowd out uses such as moderately-priced restaurants and retail, Ireland said.
Tonight’s special meeting was scheduled to expedite the land-use code changes. A downzoning package introduced by Councilman Torre at a meeting in February did not get the four votes necessary for passage as an emergency ordinance. His changes, which would have immediately capped heights at 32 feet, did get a 3-2 majority, however.
Adam Frisch, one of the voices on council more skeptical about a wholesale downzoning of downtown, will be absent from tonight’s special meeting. Ireland said he could not guarantee that council would not vote on any code amendments without Frisch.
Ireland said if council does vote without Frisch, it could always move to reconsider when he gets back for next week’s regular meeting. The discussion also could be continued to the April 9 meeting without a vote.
Sunny Vann, a longtime planning consultant in Aspen, said it’s unrealistic to expect new overnight lodging in the core because land values are too valuable for anything less than high-end rooms, and most downtown lots are too small to support a lodge.
Tonight’s meeting starts at 5 p.m. in the basement of City Hall.