Archive for Thursday, December 2, 2004

Pool design belly flops before De Soto Planning Commission

December 2, 2004

The De Soto Planning Commission agreed Nov. 23 to table the city's request for a special use permit for the new swimming pool, citing concerns about the appearance of the bathhouse, concession stand and mechanical building.
Plans for the new pool behind the De Soto Community Center were developed this fall. In April, city voters approved a $2.65 million bond issue that would replace the current Miller Park pool with one built behind the De Soto Community Center.
Planning commissioners spent little time discussing the details of the pool or its features. Other than some concern about parking, planning commissioners focused on the faults they found in the structures that will house the pool's mechanical system and a similar building that would serve as locker rooms and a concession stand.
Tabling the special-use permit request was also appropriate, planning commissioners agreed, because Larkin Aquatic's architect Treadwell Jones had not yet completed the final design of the ancillary buildings.
Jones and City Administrator Greg Johnson admitted the structures were "utilitarian" because most of the pool's $2.03 million construction budget went into the pool and its features.
"As we went through the design process, we incorporated a number of things to make it more multi-functional," Johnson said. "If you look at the original schematic design before the bond passed, I think everyone would say this is a much better design."
By concentrating spending on the pool, the design was able to include three slides of various sizes, a toddler pool, lap lanes, diving boards, a hydrotherapy bench and vortex pool, Jones said. The features were segregated into distinct areas that would appeal to different users and age groups, increasing its appeal, he said.
That left a tight budget for the ancillary buildings, which the design places between the pool and the De Soto Community Building, Jones said. Although conceding his architectural sensibility was less than satisfied with the result, he said the different colored masonry bricks and landscape elements would act to break up the buildings' facades. Acting to further reduce the unsightliness of the buildings was the low height of their exterior walls, which Jones said was only nine-feet, four-inches tall.
Furthermore, the buildings would be in the "backyard" behind the Community Center and not on street frontage, Jones said.
Planning commissioners, who in the last year have insisted changes be made to enhance the appearance of exterior facades on Lexington Plaza and new Veterans of Foreign War post, worried about the message sent if the city was allowed to forego its own regulations.
The buildings were incompatible with the pool, commissioners Richard Hemphill and Richard Moberly said. The architect Hemphill wondered if tile, glass blocks or a metal roof could be used to enhance the buildings' appearance.
When told that such upgrades could force the elimination of pool features, planning commissioners said they routinely heard much the same thing from private developers. Their response to developers, Moberly said, was find more money.
But Hemphill said one offending element of the design, the earth-tone colors of the masonry Jones presented, could be changed without adding to the cost.
"Look at your umbrellas," he said. "You wouldn't design them to be brown."
Jones said such minor details could be changed, because the final design of the structures wasn't completed.
Agreeing they couldn't approve incomplete designs, planning commissioners decided to table the request until December, when designs were completed and Jones had a chance to respond to concerns about the buildings' facades.
The delay shouldn't affect the city's desire to bid the pool's construction early in January 2005, Johnson said. The request for the special use permit was brought to the Planning Commission early so that any concerns could be addressed without delaying the project, he said.

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