Aspen City Council took the next step in cracking down on short-term rentals and new residential development at their regular meeting on Tuesday.
After passing a temporary moratorium on STR activity and certain kinds of new residential development and redevelopment on Dec. 8, the city is now beginning the work to address the concerns that led to the passage of the emergency ordinance, also known as Ordinance 27. The process over the next six months will include community engagement, which will begin in earnest next month.
On Tuesday, council members asked staff to explore solutions to issues such as property tax inequity and a tendency to develop residential properties with the intention of starting a short-term rental, and also offered support for staff’s work thus far.
“What we seek is a lived-in community — people actually being able to live here,” Councilmember Skippy Mesirow said. “The way I think about this is that the current land use code is fighting our goals. If we step back and do nothing … we get further and further from our goals. Our communities feel less like communities.”
Staff asked council members for direction on specific priorities to focus on throughout the duration of the moratorium. According to a memo from Community Development Director Phillip Supino, the adoption of Ordinance 27 was the boldest step to date among peer communities in linking issues of community, environmental and economic health to specific development activities.
Supino added that the passage of the emergency moratorium has set the city on a path to develop new solutions and regulatory responses to ensure alignment between the land use code and the Aspen Area Community Plan — a document used to guide policy decisions throughout the Aspen area — which the council has identified as a goal. The city will use input from Tuesday’s meeting and another on Feb. 1 to create a work plan that will shape the response from the council, staff and the community to such concerns.
So far, Supino said in the memo that staff has spent the past few weeks bringing consultants on board to support various elements of the project, and has also identified resource needs and begun to conceptualize policy and regulatory ideas to respond to direction from the council and community members.
The passage of Ordinance 27 was a controversial step forward and community members have been vocal during public comment and in between council meetings about their opposition to the moratorium. Two local Realtors, Bob Bowden and Bill Guth, have organized a nonprofit known as Aspenites for Responsible Land Use Policy and are collecting signatures on a citizen-initiated petition to repeal the ordinance.
Guth said on Tuesday that the group is collecting “a ton” of signatures. They will need nearly 1,000 — or 15% of the Aspen electorate — by the end of this month before it can go to the council table. The petition must be signed in person at one of the following locations: the Aspen Garfield and Hecht law office, Big Wrap, Engel and Volkers or the Douglas Elliman Real Estate office.
Despite opposition, city officials maintain the necessity to take a pause and use the next six months to create effective policies. In his memo, Supino acknowledged the differing opinions that the city has heard and said that staff is committed to providing council and community members with the necessary data and framing to achieve shared understanding, knowing that may not always result in agreement.
“It will be imperative for all involved to understand that any inherent friction on these topics and in these conversations are between people who care deeply about and hold a common interest in the future well-being of Aspen and its citizens and visitors,” Supino said in the memo.
Staff will return to council on Feb. 1 and plan to ask for consideration of a proposed work plan that outlines specific policy elements to pursue, a plan for community engagement, and an overall project timeline.