County waives rules for tree company | AspenTimes.com

County waives rules for tree company

Charles Agar

Ed Booher has run his tree farm, High Country Tree Galleries, in a residential area near Aspen for 15 years. He can continue to do so, though it violates county zoning.

His commercial business is in violation of code, but Wednesday, Pitkin County commissioners authorized the nonconforming use of the land, with some conditions.

Booher leased the 8-acre property along Highway 82 adjacent to Hoaglund Ranch Road in 1994 and bought the land in 1995. He grew trees on the Pitkin County site, as well as on a larger farm in Utah, and kept a fleet of trucks for moving trees and doing large landscaping projects in the Aspen area.

Booher used employee and vehicle records to prove to county commissioners that he had a long record of the nonconforming use. He said he employed 43 people and earned $1.3 million in 1994.

After earlier resistance and a tie vote at a previous meeting (one commissioner was absent), the board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow Booher to continue activities on the property with a number of restrictions.

Booher must limit hours of operation to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and employ only a small maintenance staff on weekends. The company is limited to 20 full-time employees and no more than 22 vehicles on the property. He must install special object-activated backup beepers, and he must build fencing to shield neighbors from headlight glare.

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“We have really compromised,” Booher said. He called it a “solid plan” and thinks it will work. Though the business is restricted, Booher said he can “live with it.”

And so can his neighbors, like Sid Smock, who said he doesn’t want to see the business “destroyed,” but is pleased with the limitations.

Booher will go up for review before the county in a year’s time to ensure that he complies with the restrictions.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.