Court rightly puts county in its place
A recent ruling by the state’s appellate court sent a powerful message that Pitkin County must follow its own rules.
The decision, made public March 19, essentially said that the county did not abide by its own regulations. The three-judge panel also deemed that landowners had a right to challenge that failure in court.
Plans for a proposed $1.9 million trail, which would stretch between the Aspen Music Festival and School campus and the Marolt seasonal housing complex, were hatched in 2007, but the county goofed by not holding a public hearing on the matter. It also did not obtain permits, as required by its land-use code. The county admitted as much, but it also argued that because the trail project was within the county’s right of way, it was not required to abide by its own regulations.
The county also contended that private citizens ” such as a group of Castle Creek residents who took the county to court over the matter ” had no legal authority to force the county to follow its own rules.
The appellate court did not see it that way.
“Pitkin County contends no remedy exists for its refusal to follow its own regulations. We disagree,” the appellate court opined in upholding Pitkin County District Judge James Boyd’s preliminary injunction.
Closing in on two years, the preliminary injunction will now continue to thwart the construction of the trail, which would stretch 3,000 feet along Castle Creek Road.
In previous editorials, this newspaper has supported the trail’s construction. We believe it would provide a much safer route for music students trying to get to school from their seasonal housing. It would also serve the greater public good as well.
But rules are rules, and the county should have held a hearing to allow public discourse about the matter. The Court of Appeals decision should serve to remind the county that it is not above the law ” even its own.
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