Celestial Land Co. dispute to continue in May | AspenTimes.com

Celestial Land Co. dispute to continue in May

Celestial Land Co. dispute to continue in May

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners upheld an appeal by a group known as Neighbors to overrule the initial approval for the Celestial Land Company Activity Envelope, Site Plan Review, Special Review and Growth Management Quota System Exemption for Transferable Development Right Receiver Site concerning the Celestial property off of Maroon Creek Road.

The Celestial Land Co. won approval to develop its property below the eastern side of Buttermilk Mountain from Hearing Officer Tom Smith in May. That approval was appealed by several groups, known collectively as Neighbors, at the Board of County Commissioners meeting in November.

Neighbors consists of the Roaring Fork Land & Cattle Co.; JM Skyways; the James Bulkley Family Trust and Katherine Bulkley 2006 Family Residence Trust; and the Bruce E. Carlson Trust. Neighbors is represented by Glenn Horn, Gideon Kaufman and Mark Hamilton.

Attorneys John Fognani and Stan Clauson represent the Celestial Land Co.

“The board said at the last meeting they would like us to come back and submit our application to the board for their determination,” Fognani said. “They call it a modification of what the previous hearing officer did. They also made a final decision based on their resolution. That final decision is appealable by us to Pitkin County District Court. We’re time-barred if we don’t appeal within a certain period of time. So when they say they want us to come back and submit the application to the board, before we can do that, if we’re going to challenge the resolution that’s based on the recusal of then-Hearing Officer Tom Smith, then we’d have to do it within a specific period of time where we lose our opportunity to appeal their decision to a court in Pitkin County.”

One of the main points of contention from the appellants was the appearance of a conflict of interest with Smith. Smith served as the private land-use attorney for the prior owners of the Celestial property, Rick and Landon Deane.

The property is located below a known area where avalanches and debris flows have occurred. The property owners planned to build a 13,200-square-foot home just outside the area designated as the “red zone,” where avalanche flows have traditionally run their course.

Part of the development plan was to build a large wall to mitigate the avalanche flow and divert it away from the proposed home as well as a 320-foot trough to capture the avalanche flow and a retention pond to stop any debris flow.

Neighbors not only objected to changing the landscape around the property but contended that some of the site-planning issues were deferred for resolution outside public hearings and additional floor area was approved on a totally constrained development site.

It now appears that the commissioners will act as the hearing officers in the dispute, which is set to come back to the board at the May 14 regular commissioners meeting.

County gets grant money for child care assistance

The county commissioners approved an emergency resolution authorizing Pitkin County Health and Human Services Director Nan Sundeen to sign a contract with the Colorado Department of Human Services.

House Bill 13-1291 created the Colorado Infant and Toddler Quality and Availability Grant Program with the intention of increasing the number of slots for low-income infants and toddlers who can attend high-quality learning programs. It also provides greater reimbursements from the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program to high-quality early-learning programs to improve the services they offer to children and provides staff training, professional development and toys, books and games that help develop young minds.

Pitkin, Eagle and Lake counties were successful as a region in the submission of an application for HB 13-1291 funds and received $451,673. Pitkin County received $56,546 to purchase two infant and two toddler slots from area child care centers to hold those slots for eligible children.

“This is a means for us to encourage (the program’s) use,” said Mitzi Ledingham, the Pitkin County assistant director of health and human services.

Kids First Child Care Resource in Aspen also received grant money from HB 13-1291 to hire a family engagement coordinator who will reach out to families that qualify for the program and help them complete the application with a goal of increasing enrollment.

County salaries approved on second reading

The county commissioners approved a second reading to set salaries for elected officials other than the Board of County Commissioners. Home Rule Charter Article II states that the salaries shall not be varied during their term in office, except that the board may increase their salaries annually by a cost-of-living formula.

The commissioners approved the salaries of the county sheriff at $112,809 and both the county clerk and the county assessor at $90,814 with adjustments made annually for cost of living not to exceed 5 percent.

— Compiled by Michael McLaughlin

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