Aspen OKs hospital expansion | AspenTimes.com

Aspen OKs hospital expansion

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The City Council on Monday gave Aspen Valley Hospital officials the green light on the second phase of a massive four-phase hospital expansion, on the condition that it complies with four amendments to the proposal.

The council’s conditions are a deed restriction that would take away the possibility for the hospital to condominiumize any new office space; limit parking in the planned garage by 70 spaces until the full project is complete; provide four extra units of affordable housing for AVH employees; and provide traffic reports every two years with remedies in case traffic is too heavy.

Phase 2 of the project will add 12,000 square feet of new medical office space to be shared by three or four private practices under lease agreements; 22 units of affordable housing, with four of those units to be constructed off the hospital campus; and a new service road that will encompass the 18-acre property. The multi-phase project would roughly triple the size of the facility.

Councilman Torre, who expressed concern that the approval would set a precedent for future councils for the following two phases, regardless of their viability, cast the sole dissenting vote in the 4-1 approval.

“I don’t know what’s in Phase 3, and I don’t know why it’s not in Phase 2,” he said.

AVH CEO Dave Ressler and John Sarpa, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, assured Torre that Phase 2 only includes the bare essentials of the project, and if Phase 3 does not get council approval in the future, it would not matter.

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“Nobody’s gonna be looking at plastic and plywood and a hole in the ground and say, ‘Oops,'” Ressler said.

Councilman Derek Johnson warned hospital officials that they must continue to work with concerned community members in the building process if they want to continue subsequent phases of the project in the future.

“If you want Phase 3,” he said, “everything’s gonna have to go smooth with Phase 2.”

Residents in the area have expressed concern over the last several months that the expansion would increase what they say is already a large community footprint by the hospital. They also said the project would create a redundant hospital system in the Roaring Fork Valley, citing a similar expansion at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

But Ressler and Sarpa assured the council that the building is essential to AVH’s ability to serve the community, stressing that the project is being designed on a needs-only basis – an idea critics are still skeptical about.

“This is not an Aspen approach to architecture,” Ressler said. “This is a hospital approach to architecture.”

Funding for the project will come from four different sources: savings from hospital revenues; tax-exempt revenue bonds; a property tax hike which will require voter approval; and donations from the hospital foundation.

The property tax increase will likely go on the ballot in November 2010, May 2011 or November 2011.

The portion of the burden those different sources will bear has yet to be determined, Ressler said, because of the preliminary nature of the proposal – the $120 million price tag – is just a projection right now. The hospital is fostering a relationship with a potential contractor for the expansion, Haselden Construction, which is finalizing a bid.

ahedge@aspentimes.com