Real estate industry takes keen interest in Pitkin County growth control committee

About one-third of the 49 applicants for a committee that will help shape Pitkin County’s growth-control rules for decades is tied to the real estate sales and development industry.

The heavy interest by real estate interests won’t necessarily translate into positions on the committee. Each of the five county commissioners is individually compiling a list of their top 15 candidates. Staff will go through the lists and find where there is consensus. The commissioners will round out appointments by interviewing a handful of additional applicants who were runners-up.

The initial goal was to appoint 20 to 25 members to the board, but commissioners said Wednesday the size of the committee is flexible and could easily end up smaller.

The county’s goal is to have the Community Growth Advisory Committee appointed by July 13 so the advisory board can dive into county goals and recommend how growth-control rules could be changed to match those goals. The committee’s first meeting is scheduled July 28.

The growth-control overhaul will only apply to unincorporated Pitkin County — outside of Aspen and Snowmass Village.

“Interesting group. Very interesting group,” commission Chairwoman Patti Clapper said in a meeting Wednesday about the applicants.

The applicants were asked to self-identify their sector of economy or interest group in their application. Community Development Director Cindy Houben said there were 10 applicants from the “development community,” meaning contractors, builders and designers; two land-use planners or attorneys; two property managers; and two from the “real estate community.”

Rounding out the applicants were five entities/individuals working in climate change and energy infrastructure, seven resident property owners from different geographic areas of the county, six who identified their area of interest as “other,” one person in agriculture and 14 individuals who said they represent broad community values and visions.

It was the last category that caught the eye of Commissioner Francie Jacober. She said self-identifying in the category of representing broad community interests doesn’t reveal much about the applicants. Overall, the self-identification “doesn’t work for me,” she said.

“I just see if as kind of sneaky, frankly,” Jacober said.

Clapper said she would give the applicants the benefit of the doubt with their self-identification. But Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said she understood Jacober’s concern. The commissioners don’t want to end up with a “stacked” advisory board that is dominated by a group of like-minded people, McNicholas Kury said.

Clapper said her biggest concern is overwhelming advisory board members with information. Growth management is complicated business and there is a good chance some of the applicants will be confused by acronyms such as GMQS (growth management quota system, which forces some developers to compete for a limited number of approvals) and TDRs (transferrable development rights that can be sold from one parcel and used on another).

“I’m concerned about the learning curve,” Clapper said. “It is going to be a lot.”

She wants applicants to understand there will be a lot of “homework” required to serve on the advisory board and work with a facilitator to familiarize themselves with county rules.

The Community Growth Advisory Committee will meet every other week for six months. Its recommendations will go to the Pitkin County Planning and Zoning Commission and the county commissioners in early 2023.

The county government has budgeted $350,000 for “growth management outreach” in 2022.

One of the biggest issues the group will wrestle with is a house-size cap. The county currently has a cap at 5,750 square feet, though there are square-footage bonuses. One prime goal for the growth management overhaul is helping achieve the county’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% from the 2019 level by 2050, Houben said in a May meeting.

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This chart prepared by Pitkin County shows how applicants to the Community Growth Advisory Committee self-identified.