The owner of the 500-plus acre Clear W Ranch has offered a 272-acre conservation easement to Pitkin County at no financial cost, but instead seek support as they look to become part of Snowmass Village.
It’s not often that Pitkin County can acquire a conservation easement at no cost or trade of lands, but that’s the case with the Clear W Ranch offer. The owner of the Clear W Ranch has been attempting to annex more than 200 acres of the property from unincorporated Pitkin County into Snowmass Village so the homesite and surrounding area would be uniform with the neighboring Wildcat Ranch parcels. Florida-based Clear W Ranch LLC, controlled by Harvey Armstrong of California, owns the ranch.
Wildcat Ranch is located on the east border of the Clear W Ranch.
The conservation easement was offered in exchange for support from the county commissioners and the Snowmass-Capitol Creek caucus during the annexation process.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Dale Will, the director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails department. “We’ve been working to conserve open lands and protect the rural culture in the Old Snowmass area for years.”
Tim McFlynn is familiar with the background that led to the conveyance of the conservation easement after working on the Snowmass-Capitol Creek caucus for 10 years. He’s currently a Pitkin County Open Space and Trails trustee. “It’s an extraordinary riparian and wildlife area,” McFlynn said. “If the conservation easement is accepted (by the commissioners), that area will remain pristine forever. We (Open Space Board of Trustees) recommend approval.”
The conservation easement is located adjacent to Snowmass Creek Road just past Shield-O Road. The property includes sagebrush, shrub land, Aspen woodland, riparian and wetland areas, 15 acres of hay meadows and more than a mile of Snowmass Creek.
Because Clear W Ranch is currently located in unincorporated Pitkin County, it faces a building size restriction of 8,750 square feet.
The normal zoning in Snowmass Village allows for up to 5,500 square feet of development. But within Snowmass there are planned-unit development regulations that change the restrictions inside a specific area as to how large a structure a person can build.
For example, the largest homestead within the Wildcat Ranch area has a PUD that allows a structure to be as large as 15,000 square feet. That doesn’t include space built below the land surface, so a basement can be built as large as the developer wants.
“The parcel that the Clear W Ranch kept makes the most sense to develop,” said Sarah Oates, a lawyer who represents the Clear W Ranch. “It also makes sense to offer the easement and to keep that area undeveloped and in perpetuity.”
If the commissioners accept the easement, it would be designated as an Open Space and Trails asset.
“This will be a nice conveyance of interests with no purchase price to Open Space and Trails,” Will said. “We appreciate that.”
The board will have an opportunity to approve the move after a second reading and public hearing at the commissioner’s meeting on Nov. 6.