Celestial land flap continues | AspenTimes.com

Celestial land flap continues

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

A controversial approved application to develop a piece of property off of Maroon Creek Road could be headed back to the drawing board.

The Celestial Land Co. won county approval to develop its property located 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 Pitkin Board of County Commissioners meeting Wednesday, with the commissioners leaning toward upholding the appeal.

"We're very happy," said Glenn Horn, a land-use planner who represented Neighbors. "That's what we asked for. The commissioners provided direction that they're going to uphold the appeal. We just don't know what the specific direction is going to be."

The commissioners requested that on Jan. 14, the board staff would bring back a proposed resolution for the commissioners that upholds the appeal and recommends further action based upon that determination.

"I don't think that's the end of the inquiry," said John Fognani, an attorney representing the Celestial Land Co. "We don't plan to drop it. We think we have a very good design, and we think we have a very good plan. It's unfortunate the board didn't see it that way."

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.

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The property is located below an 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 also contended that some of the site-planning issues were deferred for resolution outside public hearings and that additional floor area was approved on a totally constrained development site.

Several people also voiced their concern that some of the planned mitigation wall could send debris flows toward their properties below the Celestial land.

The owners of the Celestial property wanted to build in that specific area because of the view toward Pyramid Peak. The original application by Celestial to develop the property occurred in February 2009.

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com