Castle Creek trail in judge’s hands
ASPEN The fate of a pedestrian trail on lower Castle Creek Road is now in the hands of a district judge, who listened to arguments Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court.Judge James Boyd said he will issue a ruling on Sept. 11 at 1 p.m., adding that he must consider “difficult legal issues.”Wednesday’s hearing in an Aspen courtroom came after a group of homeowners on Castle Creek Road filed court papers last month seeking an injunction to stop the construction of the trail, which would connect the adjoining campuses of the Aspen Music Festival and School and Aspen Country Day School to the trail network near Aspen Valley Hospital. Among the 13 plaintiffs are homeowners Dick Butera, filmmaker Bob Rafelson and Bruce Gordon.The group obtained a last-minute temporary injunction to stop the trail construction in late July. Wednesday’s hearing was to determine if a preliminary injunction is warranted, which in effect, would stop construction until the issue is decided at trial. In order to gain the temporary injunction against the trail, Butera’s group was forced to put up a bond of $570,000 in case the trail was delayed. That bond may be used by the county if costs increase on the trail due to the legal delay. Meanwhile at Wednesday’s hearing, the plaintiffs’ attorney, David Lenyo, argued that Pitkin County did not follow its own guidelines and laws when it issued a right-of-way permit without going through the land-use process.Pitkin County argued that the permitting process did not apply to this trail because the proposed trail is entirely within the public right of way. A telling moment came when Lance Clarke, Pitkin County’s assistant director for community development, took the stand. Lenyo asked Clarke if he could remember a case when a Pitkin County trail project did not have to go through the land-use review process.Clarke responded that there was not another trail project he could think of that was entirely within the public right of way. Clarke and public works director Brian Pettet both compared the trail in question to construction on a road, something for which the county would not have to permit itself. In closing arguments, Lenyo said the codes are clear and said it was disturbing that the county had stopped the permitting process for the trail. “These are legislative concerns that they are asking the court to step in and decide on what grounds they don’t really say,” said Chris Seldin, the assistant county attorney, in closing arguments. “What they’re trying to do here is just not the way our government works.”Crews recently finished with the Sardy Field paving project were ready to start on the county’s plan to build a $1.9 million trail along a 3,000-foot stretch of Castle Creek Road near the Aspen Music Festival and School campus.Officials confirmed Wednesday that the project has been put off until spring, adding to worries that the cost of the project could skyrocket because of an unusually low bid from Kiewitt Construction, which already had its heavy equipment in the area after wrapping up at the airport.Dale Will, director of county open space and trails, has previously said the next lowest bid was from Gould Construction, at $2.7 million, a price Will said might become the new low bid if Kiewitt is forced to pull out due to a delay. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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