land use code

Proposed changes to the land use code would eliminate the credit for existing floor area in redevelopments and require homeowners to mitigate for their entire floor area, including basements and garages. 

On Tuesday, Aspen City Council approved a first reading of a proposed amendment to the city land use code that would address affordable housing mitigation.

The policy change, approved 4-0 — with Councilmember Rachel Richards not in attendance —  would establish a revised housing mitigation calculation methodology for single-family and duplex residential development by eliminating the credit for existing floor area in redevelopment scenarios and using a gross, rather than net, floor area calculation, according to a memo from staff. Council was asked to review and approve the ordinance and pass it on to a second reading.

“As we’ve talked previously with council, this is a potentially impactful set of amendments in terms of the mitigation requirements for these types of development, but the land use code changes to make this happen are both pretty simple,” Principal Long-Range Planner Ben Anderson said. 

Staff made a small change to the definition of floor area and made technical changes to the section related to growth management, he said, but they were minimal and were made in an effort to give additional clarity to the language. 

“One of the things that is really difficult in our land use code is that, over time, the topic of floor area, gross floor area, net floor area, square footage, all those things, I think are confusing for staff or the design community,” he said. “This is one area that we tried to bring some clarity to the relationship between the calculations and the other types of calculations we do in this section.”

While council was supportive on Nov. 10 of the proposed amendments, the Planning and Zoning Commission brought up concerns during their discussion on Nov. 16. An Aspen resident spoke to city council during public comment on Tuesday to advise the council of the commission’s concerns and ask why those concerns were not addressed in the council’s meeting packet.

Anderson later told council that staff did not have enough time to add the commissioners’ comments, but that they would be included in council’s packet for the second reading. He also informed the council of the commissioners’ decision to recommend approval of the ordinance with two conditions: the city must evaluate the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority's deferral agreement related to mitigation calculation requirements in the future rather than in the present, and staff needs to evaluate and provide additional clarity throughout the code related to floor area, gross floor area, net floor area, square footage, etc. 

The commission voted 3-1 to recommend the ordinance. 

Council members said they appreciated hearing the notes from the commission and would like to see more. 

“I appreciated P&Z’s comments,” Councilmember Skippy Mesirow said. “While there may be some long-term advantage to the community cashing in affordable housing mitigation in time of transfer rather than in time of redevelopment, at least historically speaking, they tend to go up not down. That said, I would agree with their finding.”

On Nov. 10, a resident spoke to council to say the deferral rights and proposed changes were unfair. On Tuesday, council members asked for more work on the deferral agreement. Anderson said he will come back to council with more information, but at that time the council will need to decide whether to work on the deferral agreement right away or go through the ordinance process and come back to the agreement later. 

Councilmember Ward Hauenstein said he was looking forward to seeing more information on the deferral agreement to address some of his concerns, but other than that, he said he was happy with the proposal.

“Other than that, I think this is a good ordinance,” he said. “It starts to address some of the pressures that have been put on our community, so I’m all for it and I would like to see closer alignment with commercial and residential housing mitigation.”

Staff will return to city council on Dec. 14 for a second reading of the ordinance.