Celestial meeting cut short
May 30, 2014
A team of lawyers and land experts representing the Celestial Land Co. Ltd. spent almost four hours giving a presentation to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners for approval to develop the Celestial-owned property on Bulkley Drive off Maroon Creek Road.
That was as far as the meeting went before Commissioner Michael Owsley had to leave at 7 p.m., halting the proceedings at that point.
The group opposing the development at the requested site, known collectively as Neighbors, did not have a chance to give their presentations, so the meeting will be continued at a date yet to be determined.
At the next meeting, Neighbors will give its presentation as to why it opposes the current location of the proposed development. There also will be a period set aside for public comment.
Neighbors consist of the Roaring Fork Land & Cattle Co., JM Skyways, the James Bulkley Family Trust, Katherine Bulkley 2006 Family Residence Trust and the Bruce E. Carlson Trust. Glenn Horn, Gideon Kaufman and Mark Hamilton represent neighbors.
The Celestial team is requesting approval of its activity envelope, site-plan review and special review to develop a 13,250-square-foot home and caretaker unit on the 35-acre property. It also is requesting to put in debris-flow and avalanche-mitigation structures, develop a debris-flow basin, driveway and on-site wastewater-treatment system.
Pitkin County's site-plan-review process results in the location of structures and other improvements and activities within an appropriate activity envelope on the property that avoids hazardous areas and minimizes environmental and visual impacts.
Stan Clauson, a local expert on landscape architecture and urban design, spoke on behalf of the Celestial group, saying the site chosen to develop the Celestial property meets all the county requirements to develop within a moderate hazard zone. He said the group has gone beyond what it would take to be effective in minimizing avalanche risks on the property.
"There's been this elaborate discussion about safety that's largely mythical," Clauson said. "What it comes down to is a neighbor that doesn't want a house built there because it's in their view area."
Celestial lawyer John Fognani said his group has worked hard for the past five years to adjust its plans to meet county recommendations.
"This overall process has only made this project stronger," he said. "We've demonstrated with expert opinions and demonstrations that there is no better site than where we've proposed."
Over the course of the past several years, the activity envelope on Celestial's property has been approved four times by the county, only to have each approval challenged.
Neighbors also sent an email to the county commissioners Tuesday requesting a motion to strike former hearing officer Tom Smith's 2013 approval of the activity envelope.
The commissioners denied the motion.