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
Historical Property Analysis and Designation
Property Analysis and Entitlements
Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Design and Historic Preservation Guidelines
Strategic Development Services
Public Policy and Code Writing
Internal Process Audits
Council and Board Meetings
Community Outreach Events
BendonAdams is involved in a variety of planning projects in Aspen, CO and beyond. Below you will find a small sampling of what we’ve been up to.
Aspen Fire Protection District
Property Analysis and Entitlements, Land Use Planning, Strategic Development Services, Project Management
Crystal Palace Project
Historical Property Analysis, Land Use Planning, Project Management, Property Analysis and Entitlements, Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Commercial Design Standards
Design and Historic Preservation Guidelines, Project Management, Stakeholder and Public Engagement, Public Policy and Code Writing
Bozeman Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District Review Project
Land Use Planning, Project Management, Public Policy and Code Writing, Stakeholder and Public Engagement
Burlingame Phase III
Land Use Planning, Property Analysis and Entitlements, Stakeholder and Public Engagement
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
Reilly Thimons, IAP2 Ambassador
Reilly brings 7 years of social planning, city planning, and community and stakeholder engagement experience to BendonAdams. As an IAP2 planning professional, she is extremely passionate about policy development and community outreach processes.
Currently, Reilly is managing communications and outreach for the Crystal Palace Construction Project, She recently managed two year-long projects in Rochester, New Hampshire and Bozeman, Montana, both of which focused on engaging the community around historic landmarks and districts in commercial areas. Reilly’s experience as a land-use planner provides her with the ability to translate complex projects into meaningful and inclusive community engagement programs.
Reilly graduated with a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Melbourne in Melbourne, Australia. Reilly started her career in international development and community planning focusing her work overseas in Melbourne, Australia; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; and Mannar, Sri Lanka. She has utilized her experiences working abroad with large-scale engagement projects and underserved demographics to create strong partnerships with local communities and organizations promoting both transparency and intensive participation.
Reilly is an active member of the American Planning Association and the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association. She currently serves as an Ambassador for the International Association of Public Participation, IAP2, working with local organizations on best practice tools for public engagement. Reilly currently is the President of the Board of the Aspen Young Professionals Association.
Master of Urban Planning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Bachelor of Science, Anthropology / Archaeology, Miami University of Ohio, Oxford, OH
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.