Developers told to build promised trail
The developers of the Williams Ranch subdivision in Aspen should be required to build a promised pedestrian trail, even though it is expected to cost much more than originally planned, a city commission ruled Tuesday night.And that is largely because the projected increase in the trail’s construction cost, according to the Planning and Zoning Commission, is the developer’s own fault.The developers of the Williams Ranch project, a 50-unit subdivision just uphill from the Centennial Condominiums at the base of Smuggler Mountain, have asked to be relieved of certain obligations required by the city in return for approvals for the project.Some of these, including sidewalks and a “water feature” to mimic an irrigation ditch that has been routed into an underground culvert, are not contested by either the city or the residents of Williams Ranch.But the trail is an amenity for the entire community, needed to link two sections of the city’s existing citywide trail system, and should be built, the P&Z decided.City planner Chris Bendon presented the developers’ request to the P&Z. The developers were not present for the meeting.Bendon noted that a part of the trail, leading from the area of the adjacent Molly Gibson Park toward a small pocket of open space between Centennial and Williams Ranch, has been altered by the placement of “boulder retaining walls” holding up the earth that supports a number of homes above the trail easement.He and Parks Department staffer John Krueger predicted that building the trail along that easement will cost much more than originally thought, because the land is no longer flat and unobstructed.Bendon said he did not know if there is enough money in the Williams Ranch escrow account, set up to ensure that the required improvements are completed, to take care of the additional cost. He repeatedly said that, if the trail were to be built, it would probably be on the tab of the city’s taxpayers.But the P&Z disagreed.Commission member Ron Erickson argued that if the developer agreed in the original Planned Unit Development documents to build the trail, and then made it harder to build the trail by dumping rocks on it, then the extra cost is the developer’s to bear.”Frankly, that’s just too bad,” Erickson added.The rest of the P&Z agreed, and directed Bendon to write up a resolution requiring the developer to build the entire length of the trail described in the PUD, and to put sufficient funds into the escrow account to ensure that the trail is built to city standards.The commission also ordered Bendon to require that whatever savings the developers realize by not having to build the sidewalks, water feature and certain other improvements be turned over to the Williams Ranch Homeowners Association for future improvements.The rewritten resolution will be reviewed by the commission members and, once signed by P&Z Chairman Robert Blaich, forwarded as a recommendation to the City Council.
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The Aspen School District’s budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year is shaping up stronger than the pandemic-bogged finances from last year, according to district Chief Financial Officer Linda Warhoe.“We’re getting our head above water and we’re coming up on shore,” Warhoe said in an interview last week.