Dillon is moving forward with plans for extensive improvements to its waterfront amphitheater, which town officials hope to completely redesign and enlarge to be able to host bigger events. But the plans have drawn criticism from local residents who are concerned the new structure would be too modern looking and block views of the lake.
The tension underscores the difficulty communities across the county are having balancing development with the preservation of the area’s natural beauty and small-town feel. The town council will discuss the plans at their 5 p.m. public meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6 at Town Hall.
The town contracted architecture firm Sink Combs Dethlefs to complete a master plan for the project on Sept. 1, 2015. In May of this year, after at least seven public meetings on the subject, the town council approved the design. In addition to infrastructure improvements — including more bathrooms, green rooms, a new concession stand and a lower-grade grass seating area — the plan increases the footprint of the amphitheater from 2,300 square feet to 7,200. The structure shown in the plans would be boxier and concrete, with sharp lines and a flying trapezoidal roof.
“The size of the new facility is very much in-line with other venues that host the types of events that we provide at the Dillon amphitheater,” town communications director Kerstin Anderson said in an email. “It meets the infrastructure needs that were communicated by community and user groups in our public outreach meetings held last October.”
While the proposed amphitheater is significantly larger than the current one, the town plans to set it back further down the hill, which it says would preserve the current sight lines of the mountains. According to Anderson, 90 percent of the proposed roof line will sit lower than the existing roof.
Standing above the amphitheater with the design mock-ups in hand, however, resident Roland Gaasch saw it differently.
“You see that sailboat right there?” he said, pointing to a boat slowly passing near the shoreline. “You wouldn’t see that if this is built. That’s what’s appalling — that it would rob us of this beautiful lakefront view. As stewards of this town, we need to do better for generations to come.”
Documents prepared by the architecture firm show before and simulated after views from four different vantage points, and the impact seems to be fairly negligible. However, they are all from high vantage points, and there is no view from lower down in the seating area where the new side structure might block views. The proposed structure would be roughly 140 feet wide, considerably larger than the current one.
“There is no doubt that the amphitheater improvements represent a change,” wrote Anderson. She also emphasized that the town had worked diligently to protect view corridors and felt the many benefits of the renovation would ultimately outweigh the “lakeshore views from the limited area that will be impacted.”
“The amphitheater needs a face-lift,” said town manager Tom Breslin. “We’ve got something like two men’s stalls and four women’s. And we get 3,000 people down there.”
He added that opposition to the structure’s design is largely about taste, which is subjective.
Gaasch does not object to infrastructure improvements like bathrooms and concession stands, but his tastes are certainly different than those of town officials.
“You can have modern, but it doesn’t have to be ugly modern,” he said. “Do we need this ultramodern aircraft maintenance hangar? Go to DIA (Denver International Airport) and you’ll see something just like that.”
Gaasch feels that throughout the planning process, residents have not been very engaged in design elements, although he admits that could be due to lack of awareness or apathy on the part of residents. He also feels the town has been unwilling to compromise on the design.
“The town has been very transparent about all this stuff from the start,” Breslin said. “We pride ourselves on that.”
At the town council meeting on Tuesday, representatives of the architecture firm will be on hand to discuss finish materials for the proposed structure, including wood paneling and stone. The general footprint, however, has been decided on, and the town council has approved construction-level drawings to use in the bidding process.