Aspen City Council voted to approve a project that will make improvements to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Hallam Lake Preserve during a regular meeting on Tuesday.
The project will reconfigure vehicular and pedestrian access to the property, expand the visitor center and expand the Bird of Prey building. According to ACES’ application, the project will improve the environment at ACES in many ways, including a roundabout for buses and vehicles to make safer maneuvers, providing more workspace for staff, improving emergency access and upgrading access to the visitor center to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This was the second reading of the amendments to the planned development. At a meeting on June 8, councilmembers expressed interest in updating the deed restrictions on the property’s affordable housing units, adding deed restrictions to the director’s and professor’s houses and waiving future audits, if ACES were to agree to council conditions. Since the first reading, a condition of approval that would require an update to existing deed restrictions was added to the ordinance.
“Our top priority is the safety of the children,” ACES CEO Chris Lane said. He added that the current entrance to the property is not large enough to allow school buses to safely enter and exit, which poses a safety risk.
The developments will add 815 square feet to the visitor center, he said, in addition to a classroom and much-needed extra workspace in the Bird of Prey building, which houses administrative offices.
Four of the seven buildings on the property are used for employee housing, like the director’s and professor’s houses, which ACES also hopes to expand. The expansions will not be used for new employees, planner Kevin Rayes said, but the intention is to accommodate existing employees. Council agreed on the importance of keeping the units affordable for future employees.
“I applaud you for seeing the need years ago to build your own employee housing and it’s something we wish more employers would do,” Councilmember Rachel Richards said. “For me personally, to have the assurance for future generations that no one is going to try and double dip, it’s a reassurance that I think makes sense.”
No members of the public came forward to offer input on the ordinance, but council expressed support for updating the deed restrictions and keeping the units affordable for as long as ACES owns them. Councilmember Ward Hauenstein also said he supported the application in its entirety.
“My comments on the roundabout are I would really like to see the roundabout take those trees in the worst health and take them away,” he said. “I have absolutely no objections to this application but I would like to see, if we can, get rid of those old, bad cottonwoods and keep the good ones.”
Richards added that she would like to see council create some language acknowledging the intention to protect the affordable housing units for the future. Council also agreed to waive the audit before the group took a short recess to discuss maintenance agreements.
When the session resumed, a motion was made by Richards to approve the ordinance. With a second from Hauenstein, the motion passed unanimously.