Consider big picture with AVH expansion
Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to members of the Aspen City Council.
There are several concerns I still have over the expansion proposed for Aspen Valley Hospital. I would appreciate your attention and consideration. I would urge you to find a balance between updating the existing facilities and right-sizing it for a small rural resort hospital in consideration of environmental, economic and neighborhood concerns.
1. SIZE – It’s massive (246,388 square feet on build-out vs. 81,421 square feet existing with phase one birth center)
A. The hospital will be more than three times the existing square footage with the medical office space upon full build-out of all four phases – too large for a hospital that isn’t increasing its scope of services. This is vividly portrayed by the hospital’s slide that shows the completed building with all phases overlaid with the existing facility. Please make sure you and the public gets to see that slide. The Phase Two now proposed will increase the current size to 214,000 square feet, according to officials.
B. Please question the “hospital standards” the size is based on and review them based on whether they are a “must” for an area with considerably less hospital use than a metropolitan area.
C. It seems to me that the existing private rooms at AVH are comfortable. Can’t we just replace the double rooms with private rooms that size? What differences in the square feet of the overall building would that make? Remember, every developer goes for the biggest size possible, saying they need something as big as they have proposed.
D. Consider that AVH already gets high marks and ratings based on patient satisfication.
E. The proposed facility is beautiful and needed to a point, but too large, expensive and out of character for our rural resort community. It is fiscally irresponsible.
2. MEDICAL OFFICE SPACE
A. I question the legality of spending taxpayer dollars on a facility that will serve the private medical community.
B. The medical office space and ob/gyn and surgery docs’ claim they need to be at the hospital because of availability for emergencies. That reasoning only makes sense if they are staffing the medical office space 24/7. Do the majority of emergencies happen from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday?
C. The hospital claims this is a necessity for emergency purposes, but I believe this is more of a desire than a real need.
3. PARKING GARAGE
A. Have you evaluated the disruption the parking garage will create to the seniors at Whitcomb Terrace, the land, the trail, and the views from Castle Creek road?
B. It seems that the medical office space is driving the need for the parking garage since the hospital has committed to no increase in its scope of services. Doesn’t that mean that the parking garage could be eliminated or reduced in size if you require the hospital to downsize its expansion and deny the addition of medical office spaces?
C. Have you required an environmental impact study for the expansion?
4. DEMAND FOR SERVICES
A. Does the current and future demand for local services justify a three-fold increase in the size of AVH?
B. Has an economic needs study and demand analysis been conducted for future use of AVH, especially in light of Valley View’s expansion of services as a regional hospital? Is there greater or lesser demand for services at AVH with increased medical facilities downvalley and in the Eagle/Vail area?
C. While you are not able to consider the economic issues surrounding this expansion, you should question whether taxpayers should be asked to pay for construction of the medical office space.
A. This facility should be required to meet a zero traffic increase goal, as with the Aspen Club expansion.
B. Is the TDM strong enough? Does it have both carrots and sticks to discourage driving?
C. Can the buses handle an increase in ridership if the TDM is successful?
6. EMPLOYEE HOUSING
A. Please consider eliminating the construction of the employee housing by supporting the hospital’s interest in moving Whitcomb Terrace to the new CCRC planned area. That would allow the existing Whitcomb Terrace to be used for the hospital’s needed short term employee housing.
B. This is a win/win. It would have the effect of eliminating the impact of construction, the parking garage and added employee housing on the seniors.
7. DITCH WATER
We at Twin Ridge learned this week that the city is requiring the hospital to bury its water line, which would eliminate the stream that now runs through Twin Ridge. That water flows through our specific property and for 19 years has provided beauty and tranquility to us as well as our neighbors. We built our deck over the stream to take advantage of. It also provides sustenance to the native vegetation that it has spawned, which will dry up without such water. That ditch, shown on our recorded plat, was one of the primary reasons we decided to buy our home.
The limited amount of evaporation that may be happening with such a limited length of that stream does not justify the disruption in the beauty and the impact on the riparian zone. Without it, the vegetation will either dry up, or we will be forced to use the city’s potable water to keep the vegetation alive.
We beg you to allow an exception to the city water department policy of drying up these aesthetic and historic ditches in Aspen and allow the water to continue flowing through Twin Ridge.
Please find a balance between the need for some improvements at the hospital and preservation of this pristine area with its semi-rural character.
Jeanette Darnauer and Rob Merritt
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