County closes in on open-space buy |

County closes in on open-space buy

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE The Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday approved the next step in a $10 million conservation easement that will protect more than 4,700 acres of open space near Carbondale.In exchange for permanent protection of Jerome Park, a 4,738-acre plat of land that straddles Pitkin and Garfield counties, commissioners granted the North Thompson Four Mile Mineral and Land Corp. the right to build a 5,750-square-foot single-family home on one 35-acre parcel, and construct agricultural buildings on the remaining 4,738 acres. The North Thompson Four Mile Mineral and Land Corp. consists of Carbondale-area cattle ranching families, including the Perrys, Cerises, Nieslaniks and Fales.County officials also granted the ranchers 30 years of vested rights – or guaranteed approval to build – on the 35-acre parcel.”This is an incredible open-space project. It’s hard to imagine us being able to do this again. We are conserving seven square miles,” said Dale Will, Pitkin County’s open space and trails director.Will said the county has been under an option contract for the Jerome Park land since 1998, and Wednesday’s decision by county commissioners was the last piece of the puzzle before the county and ranchers close the deal Aug. 15.The deal includes 13 transferable development rights for the group of ranchers, Will said. TDRs can sell for as much as $300,000 on the open market and enable developers to build larger homes on certain county parcels.Once a coal mining claim, the Jerome Park property became summer range for area cattle ranchers in the 1920s and in recent years has been home to Spring Gulch, a network of cross-country ski trails the Mount Sopris Nordic Council maintains.”What this does is it creates a permanent easement for the trails up there,” Will said, adding the conservation easement will enable the council to extend the trial network and build a small a warming hut on the land.The county plows the access road on the property as far as Spring Gulch, but commissioners agreed that plowing of the “low service” road to the 35-acre plot would be up to the owners.The board was unanimous in its approval of the development rights.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is