Aspen Mass eyedas open space buy |

Aspen Mass eyedas open space buy

Janet Urquhart

Aspen and Pitkin County should split the $2 million-plus cost to preserve Aspen Mass as open space, elected officials from both entities agreed Tuesday.The two governments have been sitting on the property, about 30 acres near Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, since they purchased it for affordable housing in 1998. The property has since been taken out of play as a housing site, and the city has been pushing to free up the housing funds it used to buy it.Both the city and county open space boards have agreed the parcel is worth keeping as open space and recommended sharing the cost of the purchase equally. The property extends from the highway to the Roaring Fork River and is adjacent to the Mills property, which is also open space. Aspen Mass is across the highway from the city’s Cozy Point Ranch and across the river from the county’s Jaffee Park.”We’re suddenly getting a nice mass of open space here,” said Jeff Woods, head of the city parks department. A bike path already runs across the parcel, he noted.County commissioners and the City Council informally agreed they’d like to sell the parcel to their respective open space programs, rather than sell it on the open market.Aspen Mass was purchased for $1,650,000, with the city putting up $1,050,000 and the county providing the rest. Preliminary expenditures to develop the site with housing bumped the investment up to $1,840,000. Officials indicated they’d like to recoup that sum, plus interest they would have realized had the funds been invested since 1998. No one was pushing to make a big profit on the sale.”We’re not speculators. I don’t think we should speculate on land, even among our own interests,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.The city has fielded phone calls from a couple of interested buyers who offered to write a check for $2 million for the land, but those individuals were interested in the site for commercial development, said Ed Sadler, assistant city manager.Aspen Mass, located in unincorporated Pitkin County, is currently zoned for three or four single-family homes.The city’s housing fund would receive about 63 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the land as open space, with the county getting the rest, in keeping with the split in the initial purchase. Once the interest has been calculated, the final purchase price will go back to both open space boards for their approval.The site has been discussed for a possible dog park, and the flat land near the highway could accommodate future soccer fields if the city needs them, but there are no specific plans to do anything with the property, Woods said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is