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Council OKs recycling center

Aspen City Council approved a new recycling center for the east end of Rio Grande Park Monday night, despite objections by neighbors and a request to postpone the vote.The plan calls for two open structures, situated in an “L” shape adjacent the Aspen Skate Park, where the current recycle center now stands. The structure’s walls and roofs, as well as the parking lot, will be built from recycled materials.A group of citizens calling themselves “Friends of the Rio Grande Park” turned out to question a number of aspects of the recycling center and the process by which it was approved. Their objections included the location, building heights, potential costs and perceived inconsistencies with the Rio Grande Park Master Plan. Group members also accused the city of not providing adequate public notice and for violating the purpose of a Convenience and Welfare Of The Public task force.A COWOP is intended to begin with a blank slate, with no particular proposal set forth for discussion. Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she understood that when a group comes together to introduce ideas but is given a specific proposal to consider, “Sometimes people feel like they only have a chance to edit.””When I arrived, there was already a design on the table,” said COWOP member Cyndi Slade, who also owns a home in neighboring Oklahoma Flats.Despite objections, council members believe they followed proper procedure both for the COWOP and for notifying the public of the process.Several members of Friends of the Rio Grande Park, including Slade and local Toni Kronberg, questioned the city’s choice of location for the recycling center. They suggested the city relocate the center to the corner of Mill Street and Rio Grande Place, in the parking lot behind Community Bank. The city temporarily moved the recycling bins to that parking lot to facilitate construction at Obermeyer Place.Mayor Helen Klanderud said the city did consider the parking lot but ultimately decided there were better uses for that corner than a recycling center. The corner parking lot “was analyzed by City Council,” she said. “We were not interested in seeing it there on a permanent basis.”Richards added that the recycling bins have been in their spot next to the skatepark since 1991. “It has taken on a sense of permanence,” she said.Gary Moore, who owns a home in Oklahoma Flats, was particularly concerned with the recycling center’s estimated $737,000 price tag.”Have we ever seen a project that’s come in on budget?” he asked.Obermeyer Place currently uses a construction trailer in the same lot as the recycling bins, and as part of its lease agreement with the city, the owners will contribute roughly $375,000 to help defray the cost of the new recycling center.The city has also applied for a $50,000 grant from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency; the remainder of the money would have to come from the city’s general fund. COWOP member Debra Moore voiced concerns over what she considers a questionable construction project during the city’s current building moratorium, enacted to give council time to review the effects of current land use codes. “This project especially needs that time,” she said. “A lot of the public are really not aware of what’s gong on here.”Klanderud later clarified that the moratorium does not include essential public facilities. She said that in 1993, the recycling center’s current site “was identified as a location of essential public facilities” and is therefore exempt.Other objections focused on whether putting a recycling center in the park is consistent with the Rio Grande Park Master Plan. Kronberg read a number of sections of the plan to make the point, but council disagreed with her interpretations.”You can read it your way, or you can read it the way it was intended,” Councilman Torre told her.In the end, council members said they understood neighbors’ objections but thought the plan was a good compromise.”There are times when not everybody’s going to be happy, but … this is just a hell of a design,” DeVilbiss said. “I don’t think we’re going to gain anything by putting it off a week or a month.”Councilman Jack Johnson agreed.”I don’t think the neighbors will ever be happy with this project,” he said, although he suggested that their continued objections to the plan helped drive considerable revisions that resulted in a compromise he’s happy with.That “may be cold comfort for you,” he said, but “I like the whole thing.”All the council members were pleased with the environmental components and the message building a “green” recycling center sends.”It’s a whole idea,” Johnson said. It’s an “innovative and creative way to provide a recycling center made out of recycled products.”The plan calls for a “green roof” on one of the structures. It won’t necessarily be green in color, but it will include native species of plants to help the roof blend into the existing environment.The other roof will be translucent and will include photovoltaic cells to power minimal lighting.COWOP member Patrick Jones said the green elements actually absorb carbon, resulting in negative carbon emissions – which means those elements not only won’t contribute to greenhouse gases, but they actually absorb them.The approved plan also calls for paving the parking area with glasscrete, a mixture of recycled glass and asphalt. The material is more expensive than asphalt.Other features include two pedestrian walkways, one of which is wheelchair-accessible, and a single driveway for cars and county trucks to access the bins.The Friends of the Rio Grande Park left the meeting still concerned that the public was not adequately involved in the site selection – and unhappy with plans for the center in general. Kronberg said they plan to collect signatures for a November referendum opposing the center, a course of action Slade said she would likely support “because the public doesn’t know about it.”Abigail Eagye’s e-mail address is abby@aspentimes.com


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