City ponies up for Cozy Point
The city plans to invest $600,000 into Cozy Point Ranch, which will remain an equestrian facility for at least the next 10 years.The City Council last month agreed to grant ranch operator Monroe Summers a 10-year lease. Summers has been leasing the 169-acre ranch from the city since 2000. Under the corporation Cozy Point LLC, Summers operates a full-service public equestrian boarding and training facility.Summers’ lease was due to expire in 2010 but he asked for an extension so he can move forward with his long-term plans for the property. That includes several capital improvements on the ranch, which suffers from dilapidated infrastructure and inadequate facilities, Summers said.Dozens of supporters packed into council chambers on Aug. 21, ready to speak on behalf of Summers and his operation. But it turned out not to be necessary – the City Council unanimously agreed to direct staff to draw up a new 10-year lease and dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the operation.City officials acknowledged Summers has done an exceptional job managing the property despite the challenges of not having adequate facilities to accommodate hundreds of users and animals. The ranch is used by the H2J summer camp, Four Leaf Clovers 4H Club, nonprofit groups, horse trainers, and people who board their animals there.Yet there is only one bathroom onsite, leaving children to use porta-potties. Summers currently uses a closet as an office and there is no covered storage for hay and other supplies necessary for the equestrian operation. Summers plans to triple the current storage facility. He also would like to access water on the site, which the city owns the rights to. There is currently one well from which Summers draws and it isn’t adequate to serve up to 125 animals and three families that live at Cozy Point, he said.The three historic cabins that were moved from downtown Aspen to the ranch will be converted into bathrooms, office space and possibly housing for interns in future seasons.Summers’ request for capital improvements include: Public restrooms and meeting space: $100,000. Office space: $105,000. Covered hay, bedding and equipment space: $90,000. Irrigated grass turnout pastures; irrigating 12 pastures could allow for added agricultural use, improved aesthetics of the main areas on the property and would reduce significant noxious vegetation issues: $157,000. Domestic water storage and treatment: $45,000. Trees and landscaping: $100,000.Summers said he pays the city between $25,000 and $32,000 a month in rent, which is equal to 5 percent of annual gross receipts up to $500,000 and 7.5 percent of gross receipts over $500,000, according to the lease agreement.The lease also requires that all rent money and funds allocated in the parks and recreation department budget be put back into Cozy Point Ranch. Since 2000, the city has allocated $25,000 a year to pay for capital improvements and repairs at the ranch. Because of public safety and health issues that were backlogged on the ranch at the time the lease was signed, the City Council agreed to let Summers make improvements at his cost and give him a “rent credit,” which will be exhausted by the end of 2008. Summers will then pay rent on gross receipts, which estimated to be about $20,000.Summers will come back to the City Council with a more detailed plan and cost estimates before the money is distributed. The funds will come from the parks department and will likely be dolled out in $100,000 increments over six years.Cozy Point, which was once called “Six Mile Ranch,” was ultimately preserved as open space after a group of concerned citizens banded together to preserve the property’s agricultural uses. The property also was envisioned to be used for community events and a possible site for affordable housing.The city bought Cozy Point in 1994 for $3.2 million and within a few years, it became dedicated open space and the city’s general fund was paid back. During that time, no money or attention was paid to Cozy Point. Five years after the purchase, the facility was managed by a number of entities. The first one defaulted on the management agreement and left the facility in disrepair. The second company also failed in its business plan and left the ranch.City officials entertained the idea of selling the property to individuals who were interested in preserving the open space features. A task force was formed and it was decided that selling it would not be the best option and instead should be lease to one person. Summers was granted a 10-year lease in 1999. Now, he will operate the ranch until at least 2020.”It was always made my heart stop to think that [the property] could be developed,” said City Councilman J.E. DeVilbiss. “I’m grateful for it.”Carolyn Sackariason can be reached at email@example.com
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