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Aspen Development: Variances or No Variances?

Roger Adams

At a recent debate, proponents and opponents of a ballot measure disagreed over how often Aspen City Council gives breaks to developers. Aspen Public Radio’s Carolyn Sackariason looked into it and has this report.

A main argument being made by proponents of the “Keep Aspen Aspen” referendum claims that city council has given variances to recent lodge proposals, which benefits developers at the expense of the community. For example, extra square footage for the Molly Gibson Lodge.

City officials have repeatedly said there have been no variances to the land use code to those projects. But Mayor Steve Skadron tells Aspen Public Radio that they were.

“It’s not a black and white answer. We want this black and white answer but the complexity of these issues doesn’t lend itself to that kind of answer,” Skadron says.

Skadron is talking about how the council made changes to make the project more appropriate for the location. Essentially, those variances allowed projects to meet other aspects of the land use code.

Confused? That’s why the mayor says projects like the Molly Gibson shouldn’t go to a public vote. Referendum 1 seeks to have a public vote on any project approved by council that gives breaks on height, size, affordable housing and parking.

“The question isn’t should or should not a variance be granted, it’s should this stuff be referred to the voters. It’s not inappropriate to consider that a project might need a variance. Not all development is bad development and I’d like to believe that in this case, the Molly Gibson, which is falling down is going to be better because somebody is going to be taking a risk investing in it,” Skadron says.

Ballots will be mailed out April 13. They will be counted on May 5.

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