Aspen Valley Hospital is seeking final City Council approval tonight for the last two phases of its expansion, which includes a two-story addition, expanded basement, service road, new entryway and emergency room.
Hospital officials have attempted to address council member’s concerns about the plan since a meeting last month where a vote on the project was delayed. Council concerns included financing, landscaping to shield the hospital from view, and whether expansion costs might be passed on to patients.
The city’s community development department has recommended the council approve the plan. This will be the fifth meeting on the final phases of the expansion, going back to a first reading on Feb. 25.
The hospital’s master plan for a $140 million expansion of the 30-year-old, 25-bed hospital was approved by the council, in concept, in 2009, and voters approved $50 million in property tax-funded bonds for it in 2010. The council gave the final OK to the first two phases of development in 2010, which included a parking garage and employee housing. Now built or under construction, the mass and visual impact of those elements has drawn community complaints, and contributed to council scrutiny of these next phases of the expansion.
The new work up for a vote totals about 83,000 square feet of hospital facilities. The first two phases added up to 69,000 additional square feet of hospital, plus the affordable housing and a new parking garage.
Since the April 8 meeting, the hospital has added a plan for taller trees and gambrel oak. Those plantings, according to a city memorandum released Friday, are “to assist in softening the development.” The hospital has reached an agreement with the city’s parks, utilities and planning departments to landscape the property.
In response to concerns about financing, the hospital has agreed to prove it has the financial means to complete construction as a prerequisite to acquiring a city building permit. Along with the voter-approved bonds, the expansion is to be funded by $30 million in hospital reserves and $60 million in private fundraising.
A review of the energy usage proposed for the expanded building found it meets or exceeds standards in the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code and International Green Construction Code, according to the city memo.
Tonight’s presentation by hospital officials is also expected to reveal new design elements for the entryway, which the council had previously criticized, and a presentation on why it needs more than 300,000 square feet of facilities.
The construction at issue includes 33,000 additional square feet on the ground floor, 19,000 square feet of basement, a three-bay ambulance garage and 22,000 square feet of medical offices.
The public is invited to comment at tonight’s meeting, which begins at 5 p.m., although the hospital review won’t start until later in the evening. In advance, letters to the city included a plea for approval from 60-plus hospital employees, and one from Aspen Chamber Resort Association President Debbie Braun on behalf of the business organization.
“The hospital is in great need of modernization,” Braun wrote. “This is not an issue of being the Mayo Clinic of the mountains, but having privacy and building standards for the next 30 years.”
On the other side, the board of directors for the Meadowood subdivision raised a litany of neighborhood concerns in a May 5 letter. The council has not adequately addressed the visual impact, nor the impact that noise and light pollution from the project might have on the adjacent residential neighborhood, they wrote. They also raised concerns about an alleged lack of financial transparency on the project, and the fact that hospital CEO David Ressler announced last month that he is leaving his post.
“We can see how our issues and the assurances that have been made to Meadowood will begin to fade as time passes and key players have moved on,” they wrote.