Aspen mayor calls for summit to address growth
ASPEN ” The booming economy and rapid development in the Roaring Fork Valley and other parts of western Colorado spurred Aspen Mayor Helen Klanderud on Thursday to call for a regional summit on growth.
Officials from Aspen to Parachute “need to get together and discuss what growth will do to us,” Klanderud told members of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority’s board of directors.
The economy is booming because of tourism and second-home development in the Roaring Fork Valley and from oil and gas drilling in the Colorado River Valley.
The majority of new jobs in the next 25 years will be created in Pitkin County and Eagle County, but Garfield County is where most new workers will live, according to a study by a regional group called Healthy Mountain Communities and the state demographer.
The Aspen Times recently reported that projections indicate Garfield County’s population will swell from about 50,000 today to between 97,000 and 150,000 by 2030.
While most of that development is pegged along the Interstate 70 corridor, the Roaring Fork Valley is also facing rampant growth. A study by the Times showed there are 6,650 homes approved but not built between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
Klanderud and elected officials from other towns on the transit authority board noted Thursday they really don’t have a forum for discussing growth and broad issues. The transit authority is the only entity that brings the different towns and counties together. Its focus is mass transit.
The governments need to start a dialogue on issues like infrastructure planning to prepare for the growth, said Basalt Councilwoman Anne Freedman.
“I agree, but we need to get beyond dialogue,” said Pitkin County Commissioner Dorothea Farris.
Farris said transit planning should be a top priority of any regional summit. Many people dismissed the need for a commuter train in the valley in the 1990s because they didn’t think the population would soar high enough to justify it, Farris said. Soaring fuel prices and population projections show that a commuter train could be justified quicker than believed, she said.
Farris also said the ingress and egress at Aspen on Highway 82 also needs to be discussed.
Klanderud agreed but countered that it’s “not fair” for downvalley commuters to simply say Aspen needs to open its doors to accommodate traffic better.
“Aspen is not going to build six lanes [into town] to accommodate growth that’s way over the top in other jurisdictions,” she said.
The Aspen mayor said she will take the initiative to organize a regional growth summit. She said she’s already contacted Colin Laird, director of Healthy Mountain Communities, to help coordinate it, but nothing has been set yet.