County agrees to transfer youth center land to city | AspenTimes.com

County agrees to transfer youth center land to city

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

One of the more confounding cat fights between leaders at City Hall and their counterparts at the county courthouse came to an end last week.

The Pitkin County commissioners voted 4-1 Wednesday to convey the property under the youth center building next to Rio Grande Park to the city. The vote brings an end to a property transfer that had been in the works in one way or another for about 20 years.

The sole dissenting vote on the board of county commissioners came from Shellie Roy, who has been against the transfer since it resurfaced as an issue in late 2000.

“They wanted to make peace with the city, so they capitulated to the blackmail,” Roy said of last Wednesday’s vote.

The agreement confers the property under the youth center and two other county-owned parcels to the city. One of the additional parcels is the property under the elevator that takes people from the Rio Grande parking garage to the brick courtyard behind the county courthouse; the other is a section of land that is within the right of way for Galena Street.

The property transfer allows the city to consummate a $1.5 million deal to purchase the Rio Grande youth center building from the nonprofit group that operates the youth center. The money is needed to build a new youth center building at the Iselin Park recreational center across from Aspen High School. But the city wasn’t willing to pay up unless it got the land under the building it was buying.

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The land in question first came into the county’s possession in the mid-1970s. In 1982, the county conveyed part of its holding to the city for construction of a performing arts center. After voters rejected the arts center, the two governments worked out other uses for the land, including the parking garage and library, and entered into a number of agreements for trading sections of land.

In 1992, the county agreed to give the land under the Rio Grande youth center to the city in exchange for a small parcel that was needed to complete the library. That promise sat unfulfilled until last year, when the city finally pursued the property.

When word of the city’s claim came up, however, the commissioners balked. Roy and fellow Commissioners Patti Clapper and Jack Hatfield said they weren’t willing to transfer the land until the city agreed to certain concessions. That included the issue of ownership of a section of Maroon Creek Road that was surrounded by city property but remained the responsibility of the county.

A few meetings later the city agreed to annex the section of Maroon Creek Road that Hatfield and Clapper wanted to unload. But the deal continued to flounder, because Roy continued to raise concerns about surrendering a piece of property that she believes is worth much more than the county is receiving.

Most recently, Roy was after guarantees about the use of the youth center building. She’s expressed concern that the city will rent it out on the free market, rather than allow the county, which has long had trouble fitting into the two buildings it owns in Aspen, to lease space. Actually, Roy wanted the county to be able to use office space for free.

The agreement that Roy’s colleagues voted for on Wednesday contains a paragraph addressing those concerns, asking the city to consider the county before renting any unused space in the building. But that didn’t stop Roy from voting no because she doesn’t think the language is strong enough.