3 commissioners have no conflict of interest on Droste | AspenTimes.com

3 commissioners have no conflict of interest on Droste

Allyn Harvey

The Droste family application to build a large home and a four-mile road on elk wintering habitat will be before all five of the Pitkin County commissioners this morning.

Until late yesterday afternoon, there had been a chance that three of the commissioners would have to seriously consider recusing themselves from the takings hearing, based on conflict-of-interest allegations. The Drostes contended that Jack Hatfield, Mick Ireland and Shellie Roy were biased and prejudiced and could not consider the application fairly.

But the county’s conflict-of-interest committee ruled 5-0 Monday that no such conflict exists for the commissioners. However, the committee members also made it clear that many of the issues raised at the hearing did not really belong in front of them.

The conflict-of-interest committee was convened for the first time last week at the request of Hatfield, Ireland and Roy. They wanted the committee to consider Peter Droste’s allegation that they should disqualify themselves because of comments Ireland and Roy made to The Aspen Times earlier this winter and an answer Hatfield gave at an election debate last fall.

Ireland was quoted, “They sold the developable land when they agreed to sell the conservation easement, and now they are saying, `Let us build on the undevelopable land.'”

Roy was quoted, “We told them we wouldn’t support houses on top of the ridge.”

Hatfield said that the county’s environmental regulations created a number of hurdles for the application.

The committee found that none of the commissioners had a personal, financial or possessory interest in the Droste application, and thus no conflict exists.

The Droste family owns between 900 and 1,000 acres in the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys. The county open space program and the town of Snowmass Village paid more than $8 million to the family for conservation easements on 565 acres of their land.

The Drostes contend that a county hearing officer’s refusal to approve a road up a steep hill to the remaining 300 acres, perched on the ridge between Brush Creek and Owl Creek, strips the land of all value.

If the county doesn’t allow the road, then they lose the right to build up to 20 homes on the land, and the Drostes’ attorney maintains taxpayers should have to compensate the family, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, for lost development rights.

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