Commissioners ponder use for controversial cabin
The fate of a small cabin on Aspen Mountain popular with a group of locals is unknown now that the family that built it has been evicted from the area.Grant’s Cabin sits on the Twilight Lode mining claim just a short walk from the top of the Silver Queen gondola on Richmond Ridge. Basalt resident Grant Timroth built the cabin 17 years ago when he believed the land belonged to him.But the Colorado Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the claim actually belongs to Pitkin County. The county evicted the Timroths from the cabin last week, saying that since the land beneath the cabin wasn’t the family’s, they could not continue using the cabin or the land.For years the Timroths invited family friends up to Grant’s Cabin for backcountry skiing and occasional overnight stays.Now county commissioners face a decision over what to do with the property. Commissioner Michael Owsley said the county has received a number of letters from the public asking commissioners to let the Timroths continue to use the cabin.”But I think fundamentally the misunderstanding among people was that Grant owned the property and we took it away,” he said. “The fact of the matter was that he was occupying county property for a number of years, he enjoyed it, and now we’ve realized it’s not his property.”Owsley said he is sympathetic to the letter-writers who would like to find a way to keep the property open for public use. Ultimately he’d like to have the community come up with some ideas for the property’s use.”I’m much more interested in the community’s solution than in my solution,” he said. “It’s a beautiful piece of property in the mountains, and who knows? It could range from selling it for a luxury home site, which is a possibility although a remote one, to leasing it back to Grant or something in between.”The commissioners have not met to discuss the property, although they did visit the site recently. Many of them say they haven’t made up their minds on how the county can use the land.”It’s an incredible piece of property – a multimillion-dollar site,” Commissioner Dorothea Farris said. “I just don’t know.”This is no longer a question of ownership, but what you do if someone has been using your land for 17 years. There are multiple options to look at – whether you sell the land, use it for the county or make it available for someone else to use.”Farris said maybe the locals who regularly used the land want to come together to buy the property.”I understand people would love to keep it in the hands of someone local rather than having it used as a multimillion-dollar guest cabin, but county officials have to look at what county funds are used for and who could use it,” she said. “It’s going to be difficult. The idea isn’t punishment, the idea is that if [Grant Timroth] had gone in for a building permit on the cabin, he would have determined that the land was not his to build on. It’s not as if this was a surprise.”Commissioner Jack Hatfield said he has three thoughts on the property: that it should remain in Pitkin County’s possession, that he’s “not interested in selling out for a bunch of money,” and that the site might be appropriate for affordable housing for county employees.”My least favorite option is leasing it back to the builder – I think it’s too much of an asset for the county to just kind of give it away for some long-term lease,” he said. “Liability issues come into play, and it’s an asset I would not want to release.”Hatfield said he’d like to stay with the county’s vision for property on the back of Aspen Mountain, limited development and light use. Currently, he noted, the cabin is only 400 square feet – if it were sold, owners could apply to build a much larger structure on the mining claim.Commissioners discuss land acquisition and disposal in executive sessions that are closed to the public. Farris said commissioners are most likely looking for a time to have that discussion. “I don’t have a vision yet, although I must point out that this land is very valuable and the county spent a great deal to defend its lawful title against Mr. Timroth and his attorney, Gary Wright,” Commissioner Mick Ireland said.”The community has a great many unmet needs that might be addressed with this asset,” he said. “I believe it will take a long time to arrive at a proper use of this asset.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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