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Cabin approved in Aspen’s back yard

Jeremy Heiman

A mining-claim owner has used the takings process to gain Pitkin County’s approval of a cabin in the backcountry near Hunter Creek.

But the owner of the property, Lyle Reeder, says he’s not certain he wants to build on the claim and has made overtures to land preservation agencies to sell the land.

The approval was granted to Reeder for the Little Chief mining claim, which is just east of Van Horn Park. Because the property is in the county’s Rural and Remote zone, Reeder is limited to building one 1,000-square-foot cabin.

He obtained his building approval through what’s known as a takings hearing last week. The county denied Reeder’s application in January due to the danger of wildfire on the property, as determined by the Colorado State Forest Service. But the approval was granted after Reeder claimed the denial was a taking of the value of the 9.8-acre property.

“I think it kind of surprised him that he got his approval,” said Dan Shipp, Reeder’s attorney.

“It’s kind of like they decided before the meeting what they were going to do,” Reeder said yesterday.

But he said he hasn’t made a firm decision to build.

“If the county wants to buy it with open space money,” he said, “I’d consider it.” But he said he’s pleased he got the OK to build on the land.

“Even if I was to sell it, I think the approval enhances the value of it,” he said.

The land is near the 10-acre Virginia Pet claim owned by Aspenite Jim Mohrman, who holds a development approval granted in 1996, also for a 1,000-square-foot cabin. Lance Clarke, Pitkin County’s deputy director of planning, said neither site would be visible from the other due to heavy timber. A cabin built on the site would not be visible from any public roads or trails.

The approval is not yet final, but the last step, approval of a resolution by the Pitkin County Commissioners, is considered a mere formality. The resolution will be a document containing a long list of conditions Reeder will have to comply with if he builds on the land.

The conditions include nearly two pages of fine-print instructions on wildfire prevention. Also included are a list of required permits, instructions on limiting the effects of the construction on wildlife and other details.

Reeder said he’s been in touch with three members of the Hunter Creek Task Force, a citizen group that helps the county and the U.S. Forest Service with management decisions in the area. He said he contacted them in the hope that they would bring the availability of his property to the attention of land preservation agencies, such as the county’s Open Space and Trails program.

Charlie Hopton, one of the three, confirmed that Reeder has been in touch.

“But we’re sort of unclear as to what he expected from us,” Hopton said, adding that he’s not aware of any group that’s interested.

Reeder’s land was dropped from consideration by the U.S. Forest Service in a recent land swap because the asking price was too high, Hopton said.

“If the Forest Service can’t work with him, I can’t see any other organization working with him,” he said.


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