Commissioners decline to vacate Carbondale-area road
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – What a representative for one Carbondale-area ranch owner described as a “road to nowhere” may not always be, Garfield County commissioners concluded Monday in denying a request to vacate a road that serves a handful of rural residences and a pair of large ranches south of the town.
While vacating County Road 153, a short section of road accessing properties to the east of Prince Creek Road (C.R. 111), might make sense given current circumstances, that may not be the case in the unforeseeable future, Commission Chairman John Martin said.
“We have to look at the future, and, is that public right of way in the best interests of the public now and into the future,” Martin said. “Public access would be crucial to any kind of future development in that area.”
Commissioners Tresi Houpt and Mike Samson agreed that abandoning public roads can be problematic for the county.
“We’ve seen in the past the disadvantages of vacating public roads,” Houpt said. “I need to see a compelling argument for vacating a road before I can support it.”
Commissioners voted 3-0 at their regular meeting Monday in Glenwood Springs to deny the request by Iron Rose Land and Cattle company and the Carbondale Corp. to vacate the road and turn it into a private drive serving the current landowners in the area.
That request accompanied a similar request from Iron Rose Land and Cattle for the county to also vacate a loop road to the north of C.R. 153 and Prince Creek Road, known as C.R. 165.
Iron Rose attorney John Wood said the loop road has erroneously appeared on county road maps, even though it was always intended to be a private road. The road serves a group of about six large residential parcels that were split off from part of the larger Nieslanik family ranch between the late 1960s and early 1990s.
“It’s not a road that was ever intended to be public, and it shouldn’t be public,” Wood said. “It’s strictly a rural access road that serves those few property owners.”
Commissioners still wanted more research into how the road ended up on county road maps, and if the county has ever collected highway user tax funds for the road.
A public hearing to further consider the C.R. 165 request was continued until July 6.
“Initially we [Iron Rose] just intended to ask to vacate [C.R. 165], but Carbondale Corporation asked us that, as long as we’re doing this, we might as well get 153 straightened out as well,” Wood said.
Past the eastern intersection with the loop road, the only users of 153 road are Iron Rose and Carbondale Corp. (Big Four Ranch). At least one other area rancher, John Nieslanik, also uses the road to move cattle into and out of the high country above Prince Creek.
“The reason we’re asking to vacate that portion of the road is that it becomes a road to nowhere once you get to the driveway leading to the [Big Four] farm house,” Wood said. “It’s not like there’s a third party who’s going to come in and say they need to build a road.”
Wood said both Iron Rose and Big Four are committed to the long-term agricultural use of the properties. John Nieslanik, whose ranch sits to the north of those properties, has put a conservation easement on his property, which limits future development to only four residences, his attorney, Mark Hamilton, said.
Commission Chairman Martin pointed out that C.R. 153 was part of a former legal dispute related to two old subdivisions to the east of the Big Four Ranch, Te Ke Ki and ACRE, which lacked a legal access. Most of those lots have since been purchased by Big Four Ranch owner Terry Considine.
“My concern is having a situation where you have a private access for future development,” Martin said. “By keeping the road in the public hands, at least we have some kind of control.”
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