Aspen Council Votes 3-2 to Amend Demo Program

Aspen Council Votes 3-2 to Amend Demo Program

The Aspen City Council agreed in a 3-2 vote Tuesday to adopt an ordinance that will amend the land-use code by adding two demolition allotments in 2024 for residential properties.

The additional allotments, which will allow property owners to raze their homes, increases the overall demolition-permit count to eight next year. Homeowners seeking an allotment next year will need to enter a city-run lottery that would determine the extra two winners. 

When the council overhauled the city’s land-use code in 2022, one change was putting a cap on the number of demolition permits issued annually. Members of the council at the time reasoned that a restriction was needed because of runaway development born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the real estate market went bonkers as well-heeled people relocated to Aspen and other ski resorts from metropolitan areas. 

The first-come, first-served selection process for demo permits was fraught from the day it began on Aug. 8, 2022, when the city fielded the applications on its email server. The server was overcome with hundreds of emails associated with the same eight applications.

Initially the first six property owners in the email line were told they would be awarded demolition permits, but later learned the permits had been denied because of the email deluge. Rather than going to court with the rejected property owners, the city awarded them the six demolition allotments reserved for 2024. 

Councilmen Bill Guth and Sam Rose, who were elected last March and were not members of the council that put the cap on demolition permits, criticized the limit as being a knee-jerk reaction by the previous council, a decision that amounted to a disaster. 

Guth and Rose have been advocating that the council ditch the cap on demolitions altogether, and the council agreed to have a work session in the first quarter of 2024 to re-examine the policy. 

“It’s a disaster,” said Guth of the demolition permit caps. “Those of you who implemented this will have egg on your faces when you realize these unintended consequences.”

Said Rose: “I don’t think there was a need for regulation; this was a gross overreaction to the number of demolition permits in 2020.”

Guth proposed adding 99 demolition allotments in 2024 but did not get support. 

Mayor Torre and Councilman Ward Hauenstein were part of the 2022 council that supported the measure to cap demo permits. 

“I acknowledge Bill and Sam and Mike (Maple, an Aspen resident who also has been highly critical of the program) and your objections and characterization of the program,” Hauenstein said, noting the council at the time was concerned about the “tremendous impact” of development and did not have the benefit of hindsight that critics enjoy now. 

Hauenstsein said the council’s chief concern to “protect the fabric of Aspen and our intentions were as good as they can be.”


By: Rick Carroll I Aspen Daily News I December 13, 2023

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