WP Aquatic Center Preparing for Final Lap Facility May Open in Summer of 2017 Rick Langenberg

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Despite all the controversy over a site for a new $10 million-plus Woodland Park Aquatic Center, proponents of the project are now swimming their final lap inside the city’s planning pool.

Unless any last-minute hurdles arise, ground-breaking could occur in late April, according to Woodland Park City Manager David Buttery. The 25,000-square-foot project, which will be constructed next to the Woodland Park High School, may get completed in the late summer of 2017.

Buttery estimates that the facility may take approximately 14 to 15 months to construct, and concedes that its expected opening will hinge on weather conditions. “Like most projects up here, a lot of this depends on the weather,” said Buttery, following a hearing last week. “These projects generally take a little longer than you expect.”

That said, he is confident that the proposed aquatic facility will scale the final planning hurdles, which could get finalized this Thursday (March 17) during a meeting of the Woodland Park City Council.

Last Thursday evening, the Woodland Park Planning Commission unanimously approved a minor subdivision for the project. This marked one of the final regulatory laps the aqua center proponents had to undertake, prior to the construction stage. In essence, the applicant, the city of Woodland Park, had to prove that the area where the facility will be located is developable and that it meets certain technical guidelines pertaining to building frontage, easements and drainage.

The council on March 17 will then decide on the final plat for the project. At the same time, the city staff is finalizing action on an administrative site plan review, with the public comment period now ending. If residents have concerns regarding the site plan application, which deals with such features as landscaping and design, they are advised to contact the city planning office at 687-5209 as soon as possible.

If these final steps are completed, then the stage will be set for the project applicants to obtain building permits for the facility. According to current plans, the aqua center will feature two pools, locker rooms, a changing room cabanas, a lobby and a parking lot with 34 spaces and other amenities.

Aqua Concerns
During last week’s planning commission hearing, a few commissioners and citizens raised concerns over such issues as parking, sidewalks and even the pool layout itself.

Val Carr, who is running for city council, suggested that the project proponents consider expanding its competitive pool area to eight lanes to attract more interest from top swimmers. He indicated this would make the facility more attractive for out-of-town visitors and ultra-competitive team swimmers.

Buttery, though, replied that the project proponents previously studied this idea, but were hampered by finances. “It boiled down to costs,” said the city manager. Moreover, he said the city’s plan for a six-lane competitive pool met the standards of officials from the state’s High School Sports Association. As a result, he said high school competitive events could easily occur at the facility.

Carr also suggested that the city increase its current allotment of handicap spaces.

The issue of the city’s parking plans for the facility was raised at last week’s discussion, even though they weren’t part of the commission’s final review. One commissioner told Buttery that students of the RE-2 School District are worried about losing their current parking spots.

According to the plans for the facility layout, the aquatic center will be located next to the student parking lot.

Buttery conceded that a reduction of 30 or so spots would occur for students, but stated that plans call for these to be replaced at a later date. “We can enhance their parking,” said the city manager.

Commission Chairman Jon DeVaux, a big proponent of the project, stressed the importance of addressing student safety, especially for younger kids. He asked about the sidewalk plans, noting that budget cuts have forced the district to reduce the number of crossing guards it uses. “Let’s try to make this safer,” said DeVaux.

City officials say their plans call for many sidewalk enhancements in the area and they are confident that the proposal would adequately address student safety.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Ken Hartsfield threw the staff a curve ball by questioning its designation of the project in meeting the land use guidelines of this area, calling for a public or semi-public land classification. He said he didn’t understand the difference between the classification of this project and that of a private health club. He noted that the aquatic center is planning on selling memberships, according to preliminary plans.

“This is a public facility,” replied Planning Director Sally Riley. “This is open to the entire public.” She and other officials didn’t see a problem with the current designation as a public land use area.

Even with these concerns, the commission unanimously supported a plan to grant the project a minor subdivision, allowing it to create a single lot for the project.

The project will be headed before the city council on Thursday in what could become the final pubic discussion of the facility before elected leaders.