BendonAdams BendonAdams

About Us

BendonAdams is a consulting firm based in Aspen, Colorado that joins former City of Aspen Community Development Director Chris Bendon, Senior Planner Sara Adams, Senior Planner Mike Kraemer, and Planner Reilly Thimons.

Together, we have over 50 years’ experience in city planning, historic preservation, strategic thinking, and community engagement. We have a deep appreciation of the nuanced social, cultural, built, and natural environments of communities and bring a fresh perspective grounded in practical experience to our projects.

While based on Colorado’s Western Slope, we work regionally and nationally employing our planning experiences with public and private clients, policy development, process improvement, urban design, historic and commercial design guidelines, facilitation and extensive public outreach initiatives.


Land Use Planning

Our comprehensive planning services include, research and analysis, application drafting, working with local staff, application submittal, Board presentations, entitlements, and development agreements. Additionally, we are able transition applications from land use approvals into building permit submission.

Historical Property Analysis and Designation

Knowledge of local and national historical standards, including pre-and post-war designation programs, allows our team to provide you with a historical assessment and recommendations for your property, its preservation, and its development potential. Our team also has substantial experience and expertise in designating properties both in Aspen and in Pitkin County.

Property Analysis and Entitlements

In a complicated development environment, our team will utilize our local expertise to provide you with research, due diligence, entitlement information, and recommendations for your property and its development potential.

Stakeholder and Public Engagement

Stakeholder and public engagement is at the heart of many planning projects, and with local, national, and international engagement experience, our team can manage cost-effective, exciting, wide-reaching public and digital citizen outreach. Our team is passionate about community-driven policies that reflect local identify and long-term city visions and can deliver impactful results that guide best outcomes.

Design and Historic Preservation Guidelines

Our team has extensive experience and a passion for writing both Design and Historic Preservation Standards that shape development. With experience in both the municipal and private sectors, we have a well-rounded perspective of development and the need for clear, user-friendly Standards that embody community values.

Project Management

Within the Roaring Fork Valley, our team has strong relationships throughout the development community and we are proud to act as project representatives organizing high-quality services for our clients which include surveying, GIS analysis, FAR analysis, building permit drafting and submittal, and wildfire and environmental impact analysis.

Strategic Development Services

Understanding how to successfully navigate through the development application and building permit processes can be difficult. With over 35 years combined experience working for local government we have a deep understanding of the nuance of land use codes and review procedures.

Public Policy and Code Writing

As long-time former municipal employees, our team has extensive experience in developing progressive planning policy and drafting code language. We have authored programs on planned development regulations, subdivision standards, transferable development rights, affordable housing credit programs, parking and mobility requirements, and commercial and historic design standards.

Internal Process Audits

With over 35 combined years’ experience with municipal organizations our team has created development policies and managed development review, permitting, and inspection services. Our understanding of the day-to-day workings of development processes allows our team to provide intensive process auditing reviews for our clients to ensure practical and efficient process and systems updates.

Council and Board Meetings




Community Outreach Events

Our Team

Chris Bendon, AICP

Principal and Co-Founder


Chris brings 24 years of municipal planning management, community visioning, and public engagement to BendonAdams. Chris spent 11 years as Aspen’s Community Development Director guiding development policies and managing all aspects of development review, permitting, and inspection services. Previous work focused on development review, facilitation of long-range planning and development policy, large-scale urban design, and transportation planning.

Chris facilitated the development, adoption and successful implementation of the 2012 Aspen Area Community Plan, which engaged thousands of citizens through multiple techniques ranging from personal interviews to “clicker sessions” to web-based venues. Chris has created design guidelines, affordable housing policy, impact mitigation requirements, zoning and development codes, lighting and signage codes, and construction management strategies. Chris facilitated the revision of Aspen’s Commercial and Residential Design Guidelines, and Aspen’s award-winning Affordable Housing Certificates Program.

Chris led a comprehensive effort to revise Aspen’s Land Use Code, making it user-friendly through simple language and illustrations. In a similar vein, Chris streamlined Aspen’s building permit process, dramatically improving the department’s performance during periods of intense construction activity.

In 2017, Chris facilitated a comprehensive analysis of the planning and permitting process in Anchorage, Alaska. A series of short, medium, and long-term budget-neutral recommendations are being used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Development Services Division.

Chris has been an invited speaker for several regional, state and national functions and has received state and national recognition for public engagement, citizen participation, historic preservation, and downtown development. Chris is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and has mentored emerging leaders through his volunteer work with Roaring Fork Leadership.

Master of City Planning, University of Pennsylvania
Bachelor of Environmental Design, University of Colorado, Boulder

Sara Adams, AICP

Principal and Co-Founder


Sara brings 14 years of creative planning, urban design, historic preservation and community outreach experience to BendonAdams. As a certified AICP planning professional, her passion for and expertise in historic preservation and urban planning and design informs all aspects of the studio’s work. Sara provides a comprehensive review of complex land use cases, researches properties for historic significance, manages historic restorations and rehabilitations, and coordinates with referral agencies and private developers to create partnerships. She meets National Park Service Professional Qualification Standards for Architectural History.

During her time at the City of Aspen Sara regularly reported to appointed boards, citizen groups and elected officials. Amendments to the land-use code, such as rewriting Aspen’s short term rental program, involve incremental steps to address legitimate concerns and create buy-in to a new idea. Sara has provided local leadership through writing and managing all aspects of state grants to develop preservation plans for both private and public historic properties. Sara and Aspen’s Historic Preservation Officer developed an AspenModern program that preserves existing 20th century assets within Aspen. AspenModern has been recognized with State and National awards. Developing this program involved a 2-year process with a citizen task force that resulted in changing community sentiment toward these assets through an education campaign and the implementation of a voluntary landmark program.

Sara has a passion for design guidelines that address neighborhood character, historic district context, timeless urban design, and most important are meaningful, clear and user-friendly. Over the past few years, Sara co-authored a rewrite of the Aspen Historic Preservation Design Guidelines in 2015 and wrote the City of Aspen’s Commercial Design Standards and Guidelines in 2016. In 2018 Sara wrote downtown historic district design guidelines for a city in New Hampshire, and in 2019 completed a comprehensive audit of Bozeman, Montana’s historic preservation program.

Sara has presented at numerous conferences and authored articles about historic preservation. She received a conservation honor award from Columbia University for the development of design guidelines to preserve historic graffiti. She currently serves as a development volunteer for History Colorado.

Master of Historic Preservation with honors, Columbia University
Bachelor of Fine Arts with honors, Dickinson College

Mike Kraemer

Senior Planner


Mike brings 15 years of city planning, rural planning, large estate/ranch development, hazard mitigation, and community engagement experience to BendonAdams. Having been a planning professional in both an urban and rural context, Mike is passionate about his community having worked on a breadth of projects that influenced how the Upper Roaring Fork Valley has developed. Mike spent 13 years as a Pitkin County Planner/Senior Planner reviewing complex development applications, rewriting Land Use Code standards, and participating in elected official discussions over the course of his career. Mike spent 1 ½ years as the Senior Planner with the City of Aspen where he brought a broad perspective of knowledge to the review of complex development applications. Mike brings a unique skill set to BendonAdams team having worked in both the City of Aspen and Pitkin County land use arenas.

During his tenure with both the City and County, Mike regularly reported to appointed boards and elected officials on topics ranging from rewriting the County’s solar panel development requirements and special event standards, to complex ski and lodge developments such as the multi-faceted Lift 1 Corridor.  Mike not only participated in the review of private projects, but also public projects.  During this career, Mike was the staff planner for the Roaring Fork Transportation bus facilities expansion and bus shelter improvements. Mike was the lead planner for the historic designation and rezoning of the Redstone Castle, a nationally recognized estate in the Upper Crystal River Valley.  Mike also has a breadth of experience and knowledge on permitting high profile and internationally recognized events such as the ESPN X Games and the US Pro Cycling Challenge.

Mike has presented at the 2009 National Green Build Conference on rural site planning best practices and has participated on the Colorado APA conference as a mobile tour presenter.


“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

– Dr. Seuss

BendonAdams is five years old and we could not have done it without you! Our days are filled with humor, hard work, and creative thinking and we could not be happier.

Thank you for your support while we got our feet wet and our phones working. We look forward to many more anniversaries as we continue to serve the community that we love. We continue our tradition of donating to local non-profits in 2021. This year we focus on Lift Up, Smiling Goat Ranch, Western Slope Veterans Coalition, and Valley Settlement.

Chris, Sara, Mike, Reilly


2017 Merit Award

City of Aspen Commercial Design Standards and Guidelines. Awarded by the Colorado Chapter, American Planning Association.

2017 Black Diamond Award

City of Aspen Land Use Moratorium. Awarded by Aspen City Council.

2015 Stephen H. Hart Award

City of Aspen and Aspen Historic Preservation Commission. Awarded by History Colorado.

2014 Merit Award

Affordable Housing Credits Program. Awarded by the Colorado Chapter, American Planning Association.

2014 Commission of the Year

Aspen Historic Preservation Commission. Awarded by the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions.

2010 John Keller Award

Outstanding Planning Initiative for a Small Town or Rural Area. Awarded by Small Town and Rural Planning Division, National American Planning Association. Community Outreach Process, Community Vision for the Aspen Area.

2010 Honor Award

Ski Towns Forum, Aspen. Awarded by Colorado Preservation, Inc.

2009 Community Engagement Award

Building a Community Vision for the Aspen Area. Awarded by the Colorado Chapter, American Planning Association.

2009 Award of Excellence

Citizen Participation and Community Visioning. Awarded by the City-County Communications and Marketing Association.