City, AVLT mum on land negotiations | AspenTimes.com

City, AVLT mum on land negotiations

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Valley Land Trust remained mum Monday on the potential for a land deal that would give the city additional acreage for its Burlingame housing development.

Land trust representatives and the Aspen City Council met for nearly an hour yesterday behind closed doors to discuss parcels the city could offer to the AVLT in exchange for the land trust’s 30 acres next to the Burlingame site.

The city gave the AVLT a list of its land holdings some time ago, but most of the properties are “spoken for,” said Reid Haughey, AVLT executive director. “There’s not a lot of vacant land lying around,” he said.

Aspen Mass, a 30-acre parcel owned jointly by Aspen and Pitkin County, was mentioned as possible trade bait for the AVLT at a recent meeting of the council and county commissioners. Haughey declined to comment on whether that parcel is under consideration.

Aspen Mass is located on a bench of land between Highway 82 and the Roaring Fork River, near Brush Creek Road. It was purchased with housing in mind, but the county is now poised to downzone it.

Selling the AVLT land to the city has not received much consideration from the land trust, as it is not currently trying to finance a conservation goal elsewhere, according to Haughey.

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“There’s not a project out there where we could pull off great things, but for some money,” he said.

Haughey said the trust “shared some ideas” and left the ball in the city’s court. No proposal regarding the Burlingame parcel will go to the AVLT board of directors when it meets today, said Michael McVoy, board president.

Mayor Helen Klanderud declined to comment on yesterday’s discussion.

The city set its sights on the AVLT property when it renegotiated its agreement for the Burlingame housing project with the Zoline family last December.

The new deal gives the city the option to build up to 330 units of affordable housing on some of its Burlingame land and a piece of the Zolines’ property. The city also gained the option of expanding into the back bowl of Deer Hill on its property to build up to 80 of the Burlingame units. That area had been protected by a conservation easement in the original annexation agreement with the Zolines.

However, the city must first attempt to acquire the adjacent Aspen Valley Land Trust property, which offers about nine buildable acres. If Aspen secures that land, the back bowl of Deer Hill would be preserved with a conservation easement.

The AVLT could make a deal for its land, since it owns it outright. In many cases, the AVLT holds a conservation easement on property under its stewardship, which it is obligated to maintain, Haughey noted.

The trust must weigh the conservation value of its acreage next to Burlingame – and how much value it will have if 330 homes are constructed next door, Haughey said.

“Our property has value because it’s part of a greater open hole,” he said. “Does it make sense for our property to be conserved without the property next to it, or does it make sense to move pieces around?”

The AVLT land is located north of the city’s 222-acre Burlingame Ranch. Burlingame, the AVLT land and the Zolines’ Bar/X Ranch together create a chunk of close to 400 acres of mostly open land west of downtown Aspen. The acreage is bordered by Highway 82, the Maroon Creek Club, the Airport Business Center and Maroon Creek.

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