County eyes Old Snowmass open space purchase
July 20, 2012
ASPEN – The proposed purchase of 114 acres as open space within the Shield-O Mesa subdivision in Old Snowmass will go to Pitkin County commissioners next week.
The county’s Open Space and Trails board of trustees voted Thursday to recommend the purchase for $667,000 – $475,000 to buy the land out of foreclosure plus $192,000 due the county Treasurer’s Office in back taxes – but the acquisition hinges on working out suitable arrangements with Shield-O Mesa for public access to the property.
The parcel apparently was meant to serve as a common area for Shield-O residents but went into foreclosure after the death of Jan Christensen, who created many of the subdivision lots and borrowed against the open parcel.
The land could be carved up into three lots under state law, though no development approvals for the lots currently exist, according to Dale Will, open space and trails director. Acquiring the land as open space would ensure its continued availability as a common area for Shield-O and also give the public both access to the parcel itself and a new access route to 957 acres of the Windstar property to the north. The open space program and Aspen Valley Land Trust hold a conservation easement on the Windstar land, home to the Rocky Mountain Institute.
It’s anticipated that the Windstar land will be sold, as RMI has secured an option to buy property in Basalt for its headquarters, but the easement will protect continued public use.
The Shield-O parcel touches Snowmass Creek Road on its south end.
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“The entire area enjoys superlative views of the high Elks, in particular Capitol and Sopris,” noted a memo from Will to the open space board.
The Shield-O Road Improvement and Maintenance Association has indicated preliminary support for the purchase, and several of its representatives attended Thursday’s meeting. The association, however, is seeking county payment of $27,000 in unpaid association dues associated with the property and has questions about parking and access to the property from Shield-O roads.
David Hale, president of the road association, said he is open to discussing what uses of the property will be allowed if it becomes public open space.
“There are a lot of different concepts that we’re open to,” he said.
The county’s purchase agreement for the land allows an unusually long inspection period – 75 days – giving it time to work out a mutually acceptable agreement with Shield-O regarding use of the subdivision’s roads.
Open space board member Tai Jacober commended Shield-O for being open to the possibility of open space amid its private holdings.
“We were unsure how the Shield-O neighbors would feel about this whole idea,” he said.