Opposition mounts over proposed Aspen Jewish center
ASPEN ” Opposition appears to be growing over a proposal to establish a Jewish community center on the east end of Aspen.
The Aspen City Council at its meeting tonight is likely to hear from dozens of people who oppose the Jewish Community Center moving into the Silver Lining Ranch, a former nonprofit facility that for seven years provided a retreat for kids afflicted with cancer. The facility has largely been underutilized since 2006.
The Jewish Resource Center Chabad of Aspen recently entered into a contract to buy the Silver Lining Ranch, which would be converted into a community center. The center would house a preschool, a Hebrew school, a synagogue, adult education, and special events.
The council is being asked to rezone the area to allow for the converted use, as well as let the Jewish congregation build a 700-square-foot cabin for affordable housing and add 20 new parking spaces.
Tom Reagan, president of the Stillwater Ranch Homeowners Association, said he and others have recruited as many people as they can to formally oppose the proposal. Several are expected to address the council with their concerns tonight during a public hearing. Dozens of others have submitted their objections in writing to city officials.
“I think there is a fair amount of material presented to the council,” Reagan said, adding the association hired a traffic consultant who will present his findings to the council.
Notices have been distributed to households around Aspen asking people to tell elected officials that rezoning the Silver Lining Ranch is a bad idea. They’ve been asked to fill out a form letter opposing the conversion, or come to the City Council meeting tonight to publicly speak against the application.
“Ute Avenue is already dangerously overburdened with heavy traffic and illegal parking ” this will only make it worse,” reads a flyer that was distributed earlier this month. “If this is allowed to happen, your neighborhood may be next. Let’s stop this upzoning trend now before it takes root and spreads!”
The homeowners, some of whom live a minimum of 600 feet and as far as 1,300 feet away, argue that the community center will cause major traffic problems along Ute Avenue. Some of the opponents access their homes off Highway 82, across from open space that separates the ranch from them.
Regardless, opponents argue that a Jewish community center will violate the existing covenants, which restrict the use of the property to either a single-family home or a place for terminally-ill children.
The association opposes the application mainly because it seeks to intensify and expand the use allowed on the property in a way that doesn’t fit in with the character of the surrounding neighborhood. Opponents also argue that more people using the property will negatively impact the open space and wildlife corridors next to the ranch.
The Jewish Community Center will attract dozens of people daily. The preschool is expected to generate between 35 and 40 children every day, according to the center’s application. Hebrew school would be held two times a week and would generate between eight and 10 kids. The teen program is scheduled to be held one night per month and attract 20 to 25 people. Adult education sessions would be held one day and one night a week, attracting as many as 60 people. Religious services, held every Friday and Saturday, also would generate about 60 people.
Community center representatives say most of the congregation are observant Jews who don’t drive on the days services are held. They will either take a shuttle or will walk to the facility on Fridays and Saturdays when services are scheduled. Other measures to be taken to reduce traffic on Ute Avenue are pick-up and drop-off centers at Koch Lumber Park and other areas around town for the preschool and special events. The use of the Cross Town and Aspen Club shuttles are incorporated into the traffic management plan.
The interior of the existing building would be remodeled and no changes to the exterior are being proposed. Additional parking would be put on the western edge of the property, near the Aspen Club common lot line. The vehicular entry and exit loop would be modified under the proposal.
Reagan argues that the land use application dramatically underestimates the impact to the surrounding neighborhoods and doesn’t account for the fact that the proposed use is a type that naturally expands over time.
The council is scheduled to meet Monday at 5 p.m. in the basement of City Hall.
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