Passions flow pro and con on midvalley recreation center
June 3, 2011
EL JEBEL – Proponents of a midvalley recreation center told officials Thursday that an indoor pool and exercise facility is needed in El Jebel as a community amenity that will save them the drive to Aspen or Glenwood Springs.
“I think it would be awesome to have a rec center across the street,” Jeff White, a resident of Easy Street in unincorporated Eagle County, told the Roaring Fork Regional Planning and Zoning Commission.
But opponents of the proposal say it is ridiculous to spend money on an indoor facility in an area where there are so many outdoor activities readily available. They also criticized the plan to seek a property tax hike to pay for construction of the $25 million facility and provide $500,000 in operating expenses per year.
Barbara Collins of the midvalley told the planning commission she is a retiree who spends a lot of time outdoors with her husband. They ski, hike and remain fit without a gym. She said there are a lot of midvalley residents “finding alternative ways to stay healthy, not requiring money from our fellow citizens.”
And so the debate went during a public hearing that marked the start of the review of the recreation center by Eagle County. The planning commission tabled the review so it could dig further into issues on June 16. The advisory panel will make a recommendation to the Eagle County commissioners, who will start the review anew later in the summer.
While the planning commission must make its decision on relatively dry land-use criteria, comments from the public were based more on issues of passion.
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The Roaring Fork Valley is famous for its outdoor pursuits and it attracts people who love the outdoors, said Ed Curtindale of Summit Vista. “I don’t think we need an indoor place to recreate and meet,” he said.
Taxpayers are already stressed, he said. The rec center will just stress them more.
The rec center is proposed at Crown Mountain Park, on the south side of Highway 82 in the El Jebel area. A 63,000-square-foot building would be constructed in the first phase. It would feature cardio machines and a weight room, an indoor running track and a pool. The proposed site is west or downvalley from the Eagle County office building and community center in El Jebel.
The county and the Crown Mountain Park and Recreation District, the applicant for the rec center, agree that if the center is built, improvements will be necessary to the intersection of Valley Road and the short access road to Highway 82, near the main El Jebel stoplight. Additional traffic will overwhelm an already congested area.
“That whole intersection is a major cluster,” said Temple Glassier, chair of the planning commission.
The board delayed its decision, in part, so a more complete traffic analysis can be performed.
Curtindale warned that approval of the rec center will lead to the need for the county to improve the intersection, which will require more funds from taxpayers.
Proponents countered that the recreation center is a good investment. Few land-use applications are for projects that are purely a community benefit, said Basalt resident Doug Pratte.
“It’s not driving growth. It’s trying to accommodate growth that’s already here or will be here in the future,” he said.
The proposal also bridged cultural lines. Very few land-use items engage the midvalley’s Latino community, but three Latinos spoke in favor of the recreation center. Humberto Prigadaa of Blue Lake said he spends a lot of time taking his two kids to other recreation centers in the valley. That requires about two hours of driving or traveling on buses. He said he would welcome a recreation center closer to home.
The Eagle County planning staff recommended approval with a lengthy list of conditions. Traffic and pedestrian-related conditions have the potential to be big-ticket cost items for the recreation center.
The debate will resume at 2:30 p.m. on June 16 at the Eagle County office building in El Jebel.