Midvalley rec center too flabby in Basalt’s eyes | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley rec center too flabby in Basalt’s eyes

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

EL JEBEL – A proposal for a recreation center at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel took its lumps Tuesday from two governments that have indirect influence on the review.

Some Pitkin County commissioners panned the proposal during a work session on Tuesday. On Tuesday night, the proposal was a punching bag during a joint meeting of the Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission and the Basalt Town Council.

“This is the Taj Mahal of recreation centers,” said councilwoman Anne Freedman. “This is really big and we’re a small valley.”

There are already large recreation centers in Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Freedman pointed out, and a small one in Carbondale. She forgot about the one in Snowmass Village.

The Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District’s board of directors and a citizens’ group that wants an indoor facility have worked on the proposal for years. They held meetings that established the preferred site in Crown Mountain Park, along Valley Road west of the Eagle County government building.

The first phase of the facility would be 61,000 square feet with a potential build-out of 85,000 square feet. Initial amenities would include a pool with kid-friendly areas and lap lanes, weights, aerobic exercise equipment, a walking track, climbing wall, meeting space and an activity-game room for teens.

In addition to the 85,000-square-foot facility, a 40,000-square-foot ice facility is contemplated sometime in the future.

Several members of the Basalt boards agreed with Freedman that the facility was too large and too imposing.

“It’s hard to hide a 61,000-square-foot facility,” said Mark Fuller, a consultant with Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District.

The location was also criticized because it will fill the north end of the park with asphalt for parking and it is so far away from the nearest bus stop. Planning commission member Bernie Grauer said if the proposal had come before the board earlier in the planning process, he would have sounded the alarm about the location.

“I would have said a lack of transit-oriented planning was a fatal flaw right from the beginning,” Grauer said.

Fuller said the site was determined after looking at 24 possibilities. One advantage of the preferred site is it will draw the fewest objections from neighbors because it is located away from homes. Crown Mountain Park is bounded by Sopris Village to the east and across Valley Road from Summit Vista on the northwesterly side.

Fuller said prior surveys of midvalley residents have shown strong support for an indoor facility. In a 2010 survey, 64 percent of respondents said they would “definitely” or “probably” vote yes for a bond issue to build the facility. The bonds would be repaid through a property tax hike. No dollar amount was included in the question.

Since then, the cost has been estimated at $25 million to build the facility and $500,000 annual for operations and maintenance. The indoor recreation facility would add about $195 annually in property taxes per $500,000 of home value, according to Fuller. Combined with the existing taxes to support Crown Mountain, it would total $232 in taxes annually on a house valued at $500,000.

The rec center backers aim to seek voter approval in the November 2011 election.

Several members of the Basalt boards questioned if voters would approve the facility. “This is not the best time to be talking about a big chunk of money,” said planning commission chairman Bill Maron.

Even more members of the boards questioned if the planners are being realistic about the amount of funds needed annually to support a recreation center. Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the fact that the facilities in Aspen and Glenwood Springs need a substantial subsidy “carries a lot of weight” for him.

Fuller insisted that a recreation center can be operated with a modest annual subsidy as demonstrated in Gypsum. He said the El Jebel facility would rely on user fees and aggressive efforts to find all possible revenues. It was a tough sell to the Basalt board members.

Councilwoman Jacque Whitsitt urged Fuller to take the board members’ comments as constructive criticism that can be used to create a better proposal.

Like Pitkin County, Basalt is just indirectly involved in the review of the recreation center plan. Both governments were urged to submit referral comments to Eagle County, which has jurisdiction for the review. The review by the Roaring Fork Regional Planning and Zoning Commission starts May 19 in El Jebel. That board will make a recommendation to the Eagle County commissioners, who will conduct their own review.

If the proposal advances through the review process, voters throughout the district will vote on the plan and funding in November. The district stretches from Old Snowmass to the Eagle-Garfield county line in the valley floor, including Basalt and the greater El Jebel area. It includes parts of Missouri Heights and the Fryingpan River Valley.