Iselin crowd: `Build it now
That was the message on a sea of signs hoisted before the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission during Tuesday’s marathon session on the proposed Iselin Park recreation complex. By the close of the meeting, many in the audience probably wished their signs read “End It Now.”After two hours worth of presentations by designers and consultants on the $17.5 million project, plus more than an hour of public comment overwhelmingly in favor of the plans, the P&Z tabled the issue until Feb. 6.Most P&Z members appeared to be more comfortable with the plans for two new swimming pools, an ice rink and a new Aspen Youth Center at the park after presentations from a slate of designers. Still, they voted 4-2 to put off a decision until next week.The project is scheduled to go to the City Council on Feb. 12, and City Manager Steve Barwick urged the commission to keep the development on track.A delay in beginning spring construction could cost the city $170,000 a month, given escalating construction costs, he said. In addition, Barwick cautioned, the city has no more money to spend on design changes.”We have about tapped out our resources,” he said. “The bottom line is, there is simply nothing more . we’ve got to stay within this budget.”P&Z member Jasmine Tygre bristled at the notion the commission should hurry along a project and put aside its concerns.”I’m not really sure that we are getting the type of pools the community needs,” she said. “I don’t really like the idea of not having an outdoor pool.”The plans call for a six-lane, 25-yard pool with a diving well at one end and a warm-water leisure pool with an array of features, like waterfalls, bubble jets and a “lazy river” current. The planned ice rink, to be privately funded, will contain an 85-by-100-foot NHL sheet of ice.A packed audience, including swimmers, representatives of the Aspen Speedos swim team, Aspen Junior Hockey, the youth center, the local figure skating club, and the Mother Puckers hockey team, as well as the director of physical therapy at Aspen Valley Hospital, all endorsed the project. So did a spokesman for the Castle-Maroon Creek Caucus, made up of neighboring homeowners.”We’re definitely, en masse, in favor of the project,” said Peter Fornell, president of the Aspen Speedos.”All and all, I think it’s a tremendous facility. Quite honestly, I think it’s the best facility I’ve worked on to date,” said Victor Davies, the Canada-based architect who designed the swimming pools.John Passas of Durant Architects allayed the P&Z’s concerns over whether a larger, international-sized sheet of ice should be built instead of the NHL rink. Most new rinks being constructed in the United States use the NHL dimensions, he said. The site restrictions at Iselin Park make a larger rink difficult anyway, Passas added.Longtime local swim instructor Toni Kronberg renewed her oft-stated call to have the rink built elsewhere – namely at the site of the school district bus barn – to leave more room at Iselin for swimming facilities. The bus barn site could accommodate two rinks, according to Kronberg, who has pitched a plan to move the bus barn to county land and use the in-town site of the existing Aspen Ice Garden for affordable housing.She had support from one audience member. Aspen resident David Bruton complained that adding a hockey rink to the site was constricting what could be built for pool users.”This is the minimum facility for swimmers. That’s what I’m protesting against,” he said. “It’s going to be a win for the hockey and a lose for the swimmers.”The school district, however, has no plans to relocate its bus barn, and a letter to city parks officials from Superintendent Tom Farrell, submitted to the P&Z, states just that.”It’s not going to move. Let’s put that to rest right now,” said Heidi Hoffmann, architect for the Aspen High School expansion project and a former competitive swimmer.”I would love to see a separate diving well, but this is not a diving community. We can’t have everything,” Hoffmann said. “I’d like to see it – I can’t wait,” she added, urging the city to move forward.Lingering issues for various P&Z members appear to be whether the plan should include more than one two-bedroom employee housing unit and how mass transit will serve the facility. The depth of the water in the leisure pool and the height of the main entrance are likely to get further discussion as well.
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