AVH expansion over the top
June 22, 2010
Editor’s note: This letter was also sent to the Aspen City Council.
Dear Editor:At the recent hearing on June 7, several Meadowood homeowners expressed their concerns about the impact of this enormous project – the Aspen Valley Hospital expansion – notably light pollution from a modern design that incorporates lots of vertical glass, and noise pollution, especially from boiler/generator rooms and a multitude of rooftop mechanical equipment. We continue to be concerned also about the potential negative impact of the loading docks behind the facility along Meadowood Drive and the loop service road shown on the plans to be running in very close proximity and in the opposite direction from our road – again bringing up the issues of vehicular lights and motorized noise for area residents.We also cannot help but feel greatly concerned about six to 10 years of construction, the urbanized views from Highway 82, the loss of a great deal of old-growth vegetation, increased traffic on the roundabout, and the loss of the lovely, rural character of Castle Creek Road as the bicycle path is relocated and a 220-space parking garage is erected right in the middle of a forest of beautiful trees. Also, something else that should be heavily considered is the quality of life for the seniors in Whitcomb Terrace, with construction literally all around them and very close to their dwellings for years. Their monthly rents are what, $3,000 to $4,000 a month?I stayed until the very end of the June 7 meeting, hoping that the slide show which I had requested as part of the AVH presentation would dramatically demonstrate to everyone there the mass and scale of the new design superimposed over the existing facility from several different view planes. I had seen it once before, and there was an audible gasp in the room at that time. But, unfortunately, we ran out of time, and we never got past the employee housing slides, which, on a positive note, launched a much-needed discussion. We were encouraged that perhaps we saw a glimmer of hope that the three-level, 22 units of employee housing in the beautiful, natural landscape below the hospital could be traded for another more suitable location. I am seriously hoping that this next hearing on Monday will give everyone more opportunity to address the issues we barely touched upon on June 7, and, surely, it will not be the last one. More hearings are definitely in order if we are to properly address all the possible problems and mitigation. Inasmuch as everyone is in agreement that the hospital needs to renovate in order to address privacy, health and safety issues, and their own office space challenges, these are not the real issues for area residents. The height of the medical office space is what makes the project untenable as planned (no story poles as requested by the P&Z), and it drives the stated need for a huge parking garage.Many in the community are seeking a compromise and a new design that addresses the needs of AVH and eliminates the medical office space, which requires the parking garage, and the employee housing. Then, AVH gets what it needs as an up-to-date rural, emergency care facility with a brand new birthing center, and area residents, Meadowood, Twin Ridge, Castle Ridge and Whitcomb Terrace seniors will be able to maintain their quality of life with greatly reduced projected negative impact.With regard to the medical office space and the argument that the doctors will be more readily available, my two sons were born at AVH, at 1:30 a.m. and 4:20 a.m. There were not any problems with the timing of those events, as I recall. Also, I suffered a compound fracture three years ago on a Sunday afternoon – Dr. St. John was on call, and I went into surgery that day. As far as I know, there was no issue with the logistics of getting the doctors involved either time to the hospital. Unless they live there 24/7, I do not think availability should be the driving force in this decision. This may be the business model of other hospitals in other cities, but we are not a typical community in any way, and, last I checked, we were not striving to feel like a typical city.I believe it is normal for people seeking elective medical care to shop around for their doctors and the best price. Since there are several other large, state-of-the-art facilities easily accessible from Aspen within an hour or two, I question the need for such a grandiose and expensive ($120 million) expansion of AVH. It was brought up at the last meeting that the general public is still very unaware of the magnitude of this project and may be unwilling to support it with tax dollars. The recent ballot vote was confusing because it was supposedly not related to the expansion, but after the vote, CEO Dave Ressler said they are related because “the tax allows AVH to save other revenues that it can put toward the expansion.”Please review the two NO votes by the P&Z on April 6. They recognized the miscalculations of the 3X expansion plan for AVH which is before you now.Nancy Tate HallAspen