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 and Planner Erin Wackerle.

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 over 25 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 has more than 17 years of creative planning, urban design, historic preservation and community outreach experience. 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 authors in-depth historic city and county reports documenting the story of each property, and has co-produced short film documentaries on historic preservation.  She has led numerous commercial projects in the downtown core from conception through the entitlement process, including the HP award winning project at 301 East Hopkins, which involved the restoration of two structures within one parcel: a historic Victorian cottage now operating as a popular restaurant, and a three-story mixed-use building. Sara’s efforts have also helped to add to the affordable housing inventory, implementing recent projects that strike a balance between preserving historic structures while adding livable units for the community’s employees. With a strong background in research, Sara is able to piece together complicated property history to inform future redevelopment. She excels at creative solutions to tricky properties throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

During her time at the City of Aspen, Sara was integral to amendments to the land-use code, such as rewriting Aspen’s short term rental program. Sara 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.

Sara has a passion for crafting meaningful, clear and user-friendly design guidelines that address neighborhood character, historic district context, and timeless urban design. She 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.


Like Chris, Sara’s experience expands beyond the Roaring Fork Valley. She wrote historic design guidelines in Rochester, New Hampshire and recommendations for a more robust historic preservation program.  Sara completed a comprehensive analysis and audit of the neighborhood conservation overlay district in Bozeman, Montana with recommendations for future amendments.  Sara created and led a windshield survey of Bozeman’s downtown neighborhoods with local volunteers to highlight development patterns and potential areas for future historic districts.  She was hired by the city of Aspen in 2019 to update hundreds of historic preservation inventory forms per History Colorado standards.

Sara has presented at numerous conferences and authored articles about historic preservation. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and meets National Park Service Professional Qualification Standards for Architectural History. Her projects have received numerous awards, including the 2020 Preservation Award from the Historic Preservation Commission for her work on 301 East Hopkins. While at Columbia University, she received a conservation honor award for the development of design guidelines to preserve historic graffiti. Sara previously served on Pitkin County’s Agricultural Board and regularly volunteers at the Aspen Community School.

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

Erin Wackerle



Erin is a Planner at BendonAdams, handling project management, research and analysis, studio management and marketing. She supports all aspects of land use applications in multiple jurisdictions and leads design teams in the collaboration of county site plan and activity envelope submissions. Erin was the lead planner for the second phase of the Response project, a mixed-use development consisting of office and shelter space in Basalt to serve survivors of domestic abuse in the Roaring Fork Valley. She oversees all of BendonAdams’ quality control efforts, making sure land use reports are free of gibberish and use words commonly recognized in the English language.

Prior to BendonAdams, Erin worked in marketing at Design Workshop, where her work was critical to the firm’s success in numerous large-scale projects involving public- and private-sector partners. Erin is a talented planner, creative thinker, and dedicated worker who is working toward certification with the American Institute for Certified Planners.

Bachelors of Business Management and Marketing from the University of Montana


“It does not require many words to speak the truth.”

– Chief Joseph


BendonAdams is proud to support the Aspen Indigenous Foundation (AIF), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase awareness in the Roaring Fork Valley of Indigenous presence, history, and wisdom through cultural exchange and community education and to support tribal members and grassroots Indigenous programs that facilitate social and economic development opportunities. AIF’s goal is to honor the wisdom of the Native American Indians, to promote and share their rich cultures, and educate about their true history. AIF hosts annual events throughout the year, including the Shining Mountain Film Festival, dance and drum performance, and a victory ride that provides equine therapy for at-risk Indigenous youth.
If you are interested in supporting Aspen Indigenous Foundation, attending an event, or volunteering, please visit them at

Chris, Sara, and Erin.
And our office dogs, Louis, Bates, Foster, Cake, and Aria.


2023 Preservation Award

Aspen Historic Preservation Commission. Awarded by City of Aspen for Wheeler Opera House

2020 Leadership in Planning

Chris Bendon. Awarded by APA Colorado.

2020 Preservation Award

Aspen Historic Preservation Commission. Awarded by City of Aspen for 301 East Hopkins.

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.