County OKs Henley’s house plan
September 19, 2006
Jim True, Pitkin County’s hearing officer, gave rock-and-roll legend Don Henley’s proposal for his Woody Creek property the go-ahead at a special meeting Tuesday.”I like Don Henley,” said Linda Nelson, the youngest of the five children of Laurent and Josephine Arlian, Italian immigrants who bought the land from earlier settlers and built a homestead in the early 1900s. Henley purchased the property from Nelson’s brother Briece Arlian in the mid-1970s.”I am glad he’s going to preserve that land,” Nelson said. “God doesn’t make any more land. You gotta preserve it.”Nelson – who said “I don’t count my age, I count my blessings” – said she was glad Henley wasn’t doing what everyone else in the valley was: “houses, houses, houses.” Henley’s representative, planning consultant Glenn Horn, asked for county approval to preserve the historical buildings on the old Arlian ranch. In return, the county would grant Henley the right to build a 5,750-square-foot home. Henley asked for an additional 5,000 square feet of transferable development rights from another property, giving him the right to build a 10,750-square-foot home on the site.Horn will go before the county commissioners next week to ask for a prohibition on any further development on an adjacent property, which Henley believes is not suitable for development.True approved the proposal with only minor stipulations.The original Arlian homestead and large home, as well as barns, a smithy and outbuildings, will be added to the county’s historic inventory.”He [Henley] doesn’t want it developed,” Horn said. “He’s doing this to know what’s going to happen on the property in the future.”Henley plans to sell if he receives approval to preserve the historical buildings and build a home on the property. A county-signed covenant will limit future owners, who will be bound by law to maintain the historic buildings.Horn admitted that Henley’s motives are not all altruistic: The rocker stands to gain by the sale and the lucrative option to add a large home. But, Horn said Henley is preserving the land because he cares about Woody Creek.Henley didn’t want the property sold and subdivided, Horn said. “He didn’t want that to be his legacy to the valley.”Suzanne Wolff, of the community development office, approved passage and said it was a “solid proposal.”Lisa Purdy, an independent consultant Henley hired to research the history of the property, said “What is really amazing is how historic designations in Woody Creek come together.” Just down the road from the Arlian Ranch stands the old schoolhouse Nelson attended, and the valley is dotted with the homesteads of early immigrant families.The Woody Creek area’s red soil, which harkened back to home in Val d’Aosta, Italy, attracted members of a tightknit Italian immigrant community, Purdy said. She said the story of Italian immigrants in the area – of struggles and discrimination, of family unity in the face of trial – lives in the last remaining descendants of settlers and preserved lands.”We just lived in a tiny cabin to start with,” Nelson said. “Then we built the big huge house in 1927.” Nelson said her father hoped, when he crossed the ocean with four siblings to make his new life, to earn enough money in the valley to bring the rest of the family here.”I knew he wasn’t going to farm it,” Nelson said of her meeting Henley. But she called the rocker humble and is grateful that the land will be preserved “pretty much like it was,” she said, when she was a child.”He could’ve made it into a subdivision,” Nelson said. “He could have had houses all over that place. I think it’s wonderful.” Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.