Aspen residential development moratorium ends Monday

City of Aspen

The eight-month moratorium on residential development in Aspen ends Monday, and officials expect to see a slew of applications coming in for one of the six demolition permits awarded each year.

This limitation is only a regulatory tool in an arsenal which was created by ordinance to address what city officials perceive to be an emergency in the community related to housing shortages and environmental concerns.

When council passed the emergency ordinance declaring the moratorium in December, elected officials said they wanted to address the unprecedented growth of recent years which has impacted traffic quality of life, affordable housing, environmental conditions and other issues.

This has resulted in ordinances and land use code changes that require residential property owners to a higher redevelopment standard in their building efficiency and divert demolition and construction waste from the landfill. local.

Ben Anderson, the city’s lead long-range planner, said changes to the mitigation of affordable housing for residential development will have a lasting impact on the community.

“I think the things that we’ve done in terms of affordable housing could have more impact with the things that we’ve done in terms of creating space, creating opportunity, and reducing part of the process review of compliant affordable housing projects,” he said. “I think those things are a really big part of what we’ve been doing, and people in the development community so far have been really focused on the demolition topic, but I think in terms of impact on the community, work on affordable housing was equally important. .”


Several code changes have been made to make it easier for affordable housing developers to get their projects approved and to ease growth at a higher rate.

The amount of replacement fees that developers must pay now increases by 8.5% per year, based on national construction costs.

Another change is the inclusion of basement areas, garages, and vertical circulation in the construction zone that counts for mitigation, and the removal of the exemption for existing floor area in building scenarios. redevelopment.

These changes are supported by a new study on the generation of residential employees, conducted by consultancy RRC and Associates, in an update of work that was last carried out in 2015.

The ordinance also allows an administrative review avenue for 100% affordable housing projects, subject to deed restrictions, that meet land use code requirements.

These projects were previously subject to review by the Planning and Zoning Commission, even if they comply with the area’s underlying district dimensions, parking requirements and other restrictions.

This process could take up to 18 months with public hearings and studies, Anderson said.

The change is designed to streamline review and bring more predictability to private and public sector affordable housing projects.

The new ordinance also removes unnecessary barriers to affordable housing development in most area districts of Aspen and, in a few specific situations, provides additional opportunities within the dimensional boundaries of the underlying area districts.

For example, developers can now develop 100% affordable triplex or quadruplex structures in residential areas currently limited to single-family and duplex.

It also gives dimensional flexibility to existing and currently non-conforming multi-family properties in area districts that prevent these properties from being converted into restricted deed affordable housing.

“Throughout the area district regulations, there were sort of intentional and unintentional barriers to affordable housing development that kind of developed over time,” Anderson said, adding that the comments of the community in preparing the order suggested that the residents did not want it. developers to get more height or area allowed. “So we didn’t do anything that gives an expanded dimension, but we were very clear about making sure that affordable housing was a permitted use everywhere and that there weren’t other things that were preventing the development of affordable housing, intentionally or unintentionally.”


The new rules also prohibit the establishment of new open market residential units in the city’s mixed-use area neighborhood.

All work before Ordinances 13 and 14 passed last month took place during a development pause designed for city officials and the community to address stressors on the built environment.

The pace and scale of residential development has accelerated in 2021, with 15 demolition permits issued.

Since 2013, the average number of building permits issued each year has been around six, Anderson noted.

When the city begins accepting applications for new residential developments at 8:30 a.m. Monday, city officials brace for pent-up demand because it’s a first-come, first-served scenario.

“Based on the anecdote I heard from, there will definitely be a demand for more sixes in that initial swing,” Anderson said.

When demolition permit applications are deemed complete, that is when they receive an award. Those that are incomplete go to the end of the line.

The standards set out in the ordinances will be required when the project receives planning permission, Anderson said.

A vestige left in the code allows an individual to apply for a multi-year allotment and have their project approved by council if they agree to additional measures such as increased attenuation for affordable housing or increased transit equipment. common, for example.

“They would be awarded one of the six allocations available in 2023,” Anderson said.

Many renovation and redevelopment projects that were in the queue were put on hold during the moratorium and will now be subject to the new affordable mitigation requirements.


What is still pending regarding the moratorium is a lawsuit filed against the city by the Aspen Board of Realtors seeking a permanent injunction and declaratory judgment, which would render the emergency ordinance unenforceable.

Ninth Judicial District Judge Anne Norrdin did not rule in favor of it, but last March approved the Board of Realtors’ motion for a preliminary injunction to lift the order enacting the moratorium.

Although the judge found that the city violated the Open Meetings Act, she ruled against the Board of Realtors’ assertion that the city violated due process provisions under the 14th Amendment of the American Constitution.

The temporary injunction left a day and a half of the original order unenforceable because Norrdin ruled the council failed to give proper notice by Dec. 7 when he filed the emergency order for the first time and adopted it at second reading the following day.

The council corrected this by introducing and passing a new ordinance in the same language on March 15.

There are two pending motions, one of which is from the city arguing that all issues are moot because a new ordinance has been passed.

The other motion is from the Board of Realtors seeking summary judgment, asking for the case to be settled without a trial.

Chris Bryan, an attorney for Garfield & Hecht, PC, which represents the Board of Realtors, said the motion for summary judgment seeks to determine attorney fees that should be paid by the city.

“It’s in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said, adding that the Board of Realtors’ position is that there has never been an rush to impose a moratorium on residential development. “It is misleading to say that on August 8 there is no longer any urgency.”

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