Standoff continues over pool
After three and a half hours of impassioned public input, the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission opted to put off its decision on a controversial swimming pool proposal above Hallam Lake.Several commission members expressed a desire to eyeball the entire Environmentally Sensitive Area component of the city code before making a decision on whether to grant Jonathan Lewis permission to construct a pool and a covered, lighted spiral staircase to access that pool above Hallam Lake and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The hearing was continued until April 11.Community Development Director Chris Bendon told the commission that their decision needed to center on whether Lewis’ application met a series of seven objective criteria established by the Hallam Lake Bluff ESA.
The ESA criteria include references to a 15-foot setback at the top of the bluff above the lake, requirements that no non-native vegetation be used, that established height limitations be observed, and that all exterior lighting be downcast.That was when any semblance of agreement among the capacity crowd in the council chambers disintegrated.At least two commission members, Dylan Johns and Mary Liz Wilson, wanted to know whether the purpose statement of the ESA plan could be integrated into their decision-making process. But Bendon reiterated after the commission heard input from 22 members of the public – almost all of whom opposed the swimming pool proposal – that the application process, despite the additional burdens imposed by the ESA designation, was contingent upon those clearly delineated objective criteria.
Many members of the public, including past and present board members of ACES, countered Bendon’s assertion by stating that the purpose statement of the ESA document could and should also be used when the commission makes its decision.City Attorney John Worcester said both sides were partially correct, and promised to write a memo in the next week stating his opinion on the subject.Input from the public covered the gamut. Some people gave Lewis and his plan an enthusiastic thumbs-up, calling him a pillar of the community and an avatar of good land stewardship. But most public comment centered around the potential negative impacts the pool and its concomitant uses would have on ACES and Hallam Lake. Noise and light impacts were cited numerous times.
Also, the concept of incrementalism was an oft-repeated concern, wherein, if P&Z allowed this development at this time, it would surely face additional development requests from others owning land above the lake.Several professional wildlife biologists said the pool would adversely impact the fauna that calls Hallam Lake home.Lewis’ team countered that there was absolutely no proof that the swimming pool would in and of itself impact the lake’s wildlife.Bendon was instructed to make certain that P&Z members had access to the entire ESA code.
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