Aspen City Council to resume review of hospital
The Aspen Times
The continued expansion of Aspen Valley Hospital is back on the City Council’s front burner following a five-week respite during which four council members campaigned for mayor and hospital officials took time to consider previous criticisms of the project.
The last discussion and public hearing on the topic were held April 8. Mayor Mick Ireland and some Aspen City Council members sought answers on a variety of details involving the third and fourth phases of the facility’s overall $140 million-plus expansion and wanted to know whether the project will lead to higher costs for health care services or a request for a property tax increase to help cover the construction tab.
The third and fourth phases involved an additional 83,000 square feet of hospital space. Phase I, an obstetrics unit, already has been completed. Phase II, the largest of the four phases involving 139,000 square feet (which includes a parking garage), is still under construction.
The project even popped up a few times during the mayor’s race, with Councilmen Torre and Steve Skadron sparring over Skadron’s vote in 2009 to grant conceptual approval of the entire project. Though Torre was the lone vote against it four years ago, Skadron expressed criticism of the hospital’s plans during council discussions in February, March and April. Both men will face off in the June 4 runoff.
The hospital needs the council’s final approval to move forward with the third and fourth phases, which would involve a larger and improved surgery unit, radiology department, emergency room and main entrance as well as an ambulance bay and private medical offices. Much of the expansion involves basement space.
At recent public hearings, many members of the community, including hospital employees and physicians, have spoken in support of allowing the hospital to build the next two phases, saying that the 35-year-old hospital is woefully undersized. But there has been outcry from residents of the Meadowood area, whose concerns range from the hospital’s sheer size to noise, lighting and landscaping issues.
The council’s meeting packet contains some new input for and against the project. George Hart, president of Alpine Bank in Snowmass Village, sent a letter asking the council to let the project be completed “as it was planned and approved” conceptually in 2009.
“Please do not waste your time reinventing the wheel,” Hart wrote.
But Nancy Tate Hall, a board member of the Meadowood Metro District, provided a long list of problems the neighbors have with further expansion.
“AVH has made an effort through monthly meetings to include Meadowood homeowners in the process, and our concerns have been voiced and duly noted,” she wrote. “However, there has been little mitigation or compromise to counter the obvious impact to our neighborhood as it shares a border with the hospital. … As the building expands and rises above the trees, it is more and more prominent and unattractive from the Meadowood side.”
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