County authorizes Smuggler purchase | AspenTimes.com

County authorizes Smuggler purchase

Joel Stonington

Pitkin County Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously authorized the purchase of about 170 acres on the face of Smuggler Mountain for open space.The deal, with the city of Aspen to put up half of the $15 million, brings all of George “Wilk” Wilkinson’s holdings on Smuggler into public hands.The city and county hope to purchase other holdings on Smuggler some day.”After all these years, getting a portion, though not all of [Smuggler], seems anticlimactic,” Commissioner Mick Ireland said.Commissioners approved leaving a 3 1/2-acre parcel out of the open space as long as the city agrees with the decision. Regardless of whether the open space excludes the parcel, the open space, the acquisition will go ahead as planned.Commissioner Jack Hatfield, who proposed the last-minute change, said the parcel could be developed or sold to fund later acquisitions.”This is not going to be a $15 million project,” Hatfield said. “There are management and demolition costs and there are other properties on Smuggler that we want to acquire.”Ireland originally expressed doubts about the idea, saying the board should acquire everything and not consider developing or selling any of it. But Ireland voted to leave the parcel out of the open space in what was a 3-2 vote. Dorothea Farris said she would have preferred more time to consider the proposal. Michael Owsley also voted against carving part of the parcel out of the open space.Hatfield said leaving out the parcel makes sense financially. “Where are we going to get the money to do the right thing when the time comes [to acquire other parcels on Smuggler]?” he said. “Leave the option open, that’s all I’m asking.”Farris, however, said the last-minute decision might not be well-received. “There’s a concern here for me that this is a purchase of what is left now on Smuggler Mountain. To say, ‘yes, but’ sends a message.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com