Aspen City Council will consider changes to local development rules on Monday that would again allow three-story buildings downtown.
Council instituted a 28-foot height limit in April, after a series of controversial approvals for three-story buildings, such as the development that will be built next to Little Annie’s Eating House. In passing the law, council members said they would be willing to revisit the possibility of taller buildings under some circumstances.
The city initiated a process this summer to get community input, and council members outlined their desires for the zoning changes in an August meeting. At Monday’s council meeting, city planning staff will present an ordinance that was crafted based on that feedback.
The proposed ordinance would allow for 38- or 40-foot-high buildings in the commercial core zone district, and 36- or 38-foot-high buildings in the outlying C-1 zone.
Under the proposal, council would still have discretion and would not have to approve all applications that come in at those heights. Prior to the new 28-foot limit, heights up to 38 feet were allowed by right to developers.
“Achieving the maximum height is subject to compliance with applicable design standards, view plane requirements, public amenity requirements and other dimensional standards,” according to the proposed ordinance. “Accordingly, maximum height is not an entitlement and is not achievable in all situations.”
The proposal also would limit third-story floor plans to 50 percent of the building’s footprint.
Part of council’s concern in enacting the lower height limits was that luxury free market condos were adversely affecting traditional downtown development patterns. With downtown residential real estate that regularly sells for north of $2,000 per square foot, condos are the most profitable part of new developments, meaning the commercial spaces underneath become secondary.
The proposed changes put new and different limits on free market condos, and provide council with a variety of options, from banning them unless accompanied by an equal amount of affordable housing, to only allowing them on historic properties, or on any building, among other policies.
“From staff’s perspective, mixed-use buildings should be allowed and encouraged downtown,” according to a memo on the zoning changes from city long-range planner Jessica Garrow. “Residential use creates vitality and more ‘lights on.’ ... Staff recognizes that there are some problems created with free market residential uses, especially when that use starts to push out traditional commercial uses in the downtown core. ... Residential uses are part of an interesting downtown, but should not become the primary or predominant use.”
The changes also provide incentives for lodging and bed and breakfast developments downtown.
Council will discuss the proposed new rules on Monday, which will be followed by a second public hearing and potential approval on Nov. 26.