Behind the scenes of the Droste deal | AspenTimes.com

Behind the scenes of the Droste deal

Sarah S. Chung

This week, the mayor of Snowmass Village and Peter Droste signed a contract borne of months of frustration, hard-ball tactics, not very subtle insinuations and eventually an overriding mutual determination to create a legacy that will last for generations after they’re gone.

An upcoming vote by the full Town Council will determine if a 500-acre conservation easement will set a permanent sweeping, undeveloped entrance to Snowmass Village.

But before the next steps are taken, here’s a glimpse of how a deal, proclaimed to be dead by both sides on a number of occasions, beat the odds.

In a general sense, Droste attributes the meeting of the minds to “deciding not to get bogged down by the details and focusing on the goal.” That, however, took four days locked together in a room after Peter and Bruce Droste barely beat out Hurricane Floyd to fly out from Boston.

The final war room negotiations were conducted by Mayor T. Michael Manchester, town attorney Steve Connor, Peter and Bruce Droste, and Bob Ritchie, the Drostes’ real estate broker.

Looking back on the exhausting but fruitful dealings, Manchester says one pivotal difference between last week’s talks and previous ones was cutting out the middle men. By keeping as few people involved as possible, there was less opportunity for “misinterpretations in the communication stream,” Manchester remarked. So out went the representatives and the steering committee.

“There’s been a series of misunderstandings and miscommunication the last couple of months and finally, I think almost simultaneously, we both said, `If this is going to happen, we have to get together,'” Manchester recalled.

But the real key was drafting a contract together, paragraph by paragraph, hour after hour. “It’s funny how differently people can read the English language. Time and again we thought one thing and they thought the same line meant something else,” Manchester said. “The real sticking point was not having more finite language that we both understood because I don’t think we were that far apart.”

As witness to the last chapter of negotiations, Ritchie agrees that the written offers and counter-offers unintentionally built up walls of resistance.

“In principle they agreed on 90 percent. They wanted the same things but when the drafts came out, they went to war on the wording,” Ritchie noted.

Since Tuesday, however, the town and the Drostes now have a contract where, if approved, the Droste family retains ownership of the land and Snowmass Village owns a 500-acre easement on top of that property.

“[The easement] is sort of like a blanket. We own the physical land but we sold our right to develop the land,” Peter Droste explained.

One term of the deal is that the Drostes will be responsible for rehabilitating, then maintaining the land.

The contract would also permit a road accessing the remainder of the Droste property through the conservation easement. But it must be built with “the least visual impact to users of Brush Creek Road.”

Taxes on the land will be paid for by the Droste family, and the family reserves the right to continue “passive, non-commercial uses” including hunting, hiking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. The public, however, will be be able to use a bike path along Brush Creek Road and a walking path along Brush Creek.

“This is a fair deal and a great thing for the future of the valley,” Manchester said.

A public meeting on the contract will be held on Oct. 7 and a council vote will take place on Oct. 11.

“We’re very pleased and we hope the community is, too,” Droste said. “This is one we’re crossing our fingers and toes on.”


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