Will the P&Z be cool with a pool above Hallam Lake? | AspenTimes.com

Will the P&Z be cool with a pool above Hallam Lake?

John Colson

When Jonathan Lewis goes before the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission today to propose a swimming pool on the hillside above the Hallam Lake nature preserve, he may run into some opposition.Lewis, owner of the former Paepcke estate, is also asking for permission to build a tunnel from his basement to the pool, with a staircase covered by what he has described as a “nine-foot transparent canopy.”The components of Lewis’ proposal would overlook Hallam Lake and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which Elizabeth Paepcke founded when she lived on the same property at 414 N. First St.Ironically, opposition to Lewis’ plans may very well come from ACES.The ACES board of directors is expected to meet today, before the P&Z hearing, to formulate a response. And at least one board member has made it clear he believes the proposal should not win approval as it now stands.Bill Wiener stressed that “the board has not discussed it … there’s no official position.” But his personal position is the proposed canopy is unacceptably “intrusive” into the visual plan of the ACES area. Actor Jack Nicholson, Lewis’ neighbor and, so far, the project’s most vigorous opponent, shares that view. Nicholson termed the canopy a “lighted tower.” The actor will not be at today’s P&Z hearing, but his attorneys are expected to attend.Wiener pointed out that ACES hosted approximately 35,000 schoolchildren last year.”It will have an impact on ACES,” he said. “It’ll be like a lantern. This glass box will be up on a ridge,” clearly visible from the lake, day or night.”There are alternatives to do what they want to do and not have the impact on ACES,” said Wiener, an architect and former city planner, as well as an environmentalist and land conservationist. He is working on a presentation of ideas he believes might “work for everybody” and eliminate the objectionable elements of Lewis’ plan.Conceding city law might permit Lewis to build the project as currently proposed, Wiener said, “The mistake I see people making … is they look at it just as, ‘Oh, the law will permit this.'”But, he continued, when the city established its “specially planned area” zoning for the ACES property and Hallam Lake, “the legislative intent was to preserve ACES as a special place in Aspen.”He noted the city has the power to prohibit certain kinds of “intrusive” development. “If somebody wanted to put a cell tower there … where it could be seen from ACES, I don’t think the city would allow it,” Wiener said.He also was critical of a recent administrative decision by the city’s planning office that ruled the project was allowable under the city’s historic preservation guidelines.”They looked at the wrong property,” Wiener said, arguing planners “were looking at the Paepcke property” when they evaluated the impact on historic values. “They should have been looking at ACES. That’s where the impact is.”The P&Z is scheduled to consider Lewis’ proposal at 4:30 p.m. today.John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com.