Referendum 2C: To build or not to build? | AspenTimes.com

Referendum 2C: To build or not to build?

Charles Agar

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

Referendum 2C asks voters to grant the city of Aspen final land-use approval to build a covered facility at the spot where residents have been separating their recyclables for 17 years.

Proponents of the project say that the structures and amenities that go with them are long overdue and will make the recycling center handicap-accessible and more efficient.

The city approved the estimated $750,000 it would take to complete the project in June, but opponents collected a sufficient number of signatures to get the issue on the November ballot.

“If it’s passed, we will proceed,” Mayor Helen Klanderud said, adding that the buildings will not cut into land at Rio Grande Park. “We’re not asking for additional funds to do this.”

She called the current center an embarrassment to the city’s strong commitment to recycling. “We can do better,” she said.

The proposed project went to a Convenience and Welfare of the Public task force, which invited everyone from trash haulers and recycling experts to local skateboarders to join in the planning.

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Klanderud called the new recycling center a solid plan. She said earthen berms and trees would screen the new buildings. Sod would cover one roof facing the skatepark, and trees and high berms would shield the bike path at the back of the area. Buildings and surfaces would be made from recycled materials.

The result, Klanderud said, will be a recycling facility that is inviting and will increase recycling in the community.

If the resolution passes, half the $750,000 will come from the neighboring Obermeyer Place project as part of its lease agreement with the city. 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. Klanderud is concerned that if the project does not pass, delaying it would increase the future cost.

Signs in opposition of the new recycling center read: “Plant trees, not buildings. Recycle center stays. No rezoning for buildings.”

The citizens’ group Friends of Rio Grande Park opposes the new center. Member Toni Kronberg said that the group does not oppose recycling, nor does it want to relocate the center.

But the group is asking for a “no” vote on Referendum 2C. Kronberg said the group wants the city to shield the current site from the road and from the adjacent park with trees and berms without constructing any buildings. If the referendum fails, she said, the city has not only the funds but the obligation, along with Obermeyer, to improve the current recycling center.

Kronberg said that if the buildings go in, the removal of the existing berm that shields the center from the Rio Grande Trail will mean less space for planned expansion of the skateboard park.

The placement of the entry door of the proposed center would make it difficult for vehicles to turn around, Kronberg added. Trucks, she said, couldn’t do it. She hopes the city will scrap the building project and improve the current one-way entry and exit loop of the outdoor facility.

And while proponents of the buildings cite blowing garbage as a reason to cover the site, Kronberg asserts that the new buildings are open-sided and that garbage will still blow around.

“Maintenance is the real problem,” she said. “The buildings are a safety issue.”

Kronberg believes skateboarders would launch off the sod roof into the adjacent skatepark and that the proposed handicapped-accessible ramp would also entice skaters.

Patrick Jones, a local skateboarder and member of the COWOP task force, supports the building project. He said the roof adjacent to the skatepark would not be enticing because “skateboards don’t roll on sod.” He believes the proposed project strikes a fair balance and that the berms would leave enough space for the skatepark expansion.

Klanderud said the project was not designed in a vacuum and that the layout leaves plenty of space for vehicles to turn around. She called cleaning up the current site a Band-Aid approach to a much larger issue and said there is plenty of opportunity to amend the current building plan if people don’t agree with some aspects.

A “yes” vote Nov. 7 on Referendum 2C approves constructing new buildings on the site of the current recycling center. “No” means no structures would be built.

Plans for the recycling center are available at the city’s environmental office or at http://www.aspenpitkin.com.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.