Don’t downzone Smuggler | AspenTimes.com

Don’t downzone Smuggler

(This letter was originally addressed to the Pitkin County commissioners.)Dear Editor:Today you are contemplating a third reading to change the zoning on Smuggler Mountain. I know you and prior boards going back at least two generations of commissioners have wrestled with Smuggler Mountain. When I first came on the board, Bill Tuite told me the board probably would have settled as high as 15 home sites, were hoping to settle at 12 and were trying to hold the number to 8.Eight years ago those houses could have been 15,000 square feet.When Wilk first purchased Smuggler all most of the community was worried about was that we could continue to use Smuggler Road to access the Hunter Creek Valley. Luckily for us, Wilk and the county could never come to any agreement and nothing happened. Had Wilk Wilkinson been a pragmatic developer instead of an artistic dreamer, Smuggler Mountain would have reflected its neighbor Red Mountain, a steep hillside enclave of expensive homes with fabulous views. Wilk was a good neighbor and never made any attempt to block our access through Smuggler Mountain.Meanwhile, the county continued on a path of ever-tightening legislative controls of land use. Where state 1041 powers required mitigation of hazards, we prohibited development in hazardous areas. (We did have to backtrack on some of these prohibitions as the hazards were really not that hazardous and could easily be mitigated.) But the effect on Smuggler was that the opportunities for any development just kept decreasing until the only viable locations were on top.Meanwhile, the community out of a sense of fairness began to rally around the long discussed idea of just buying Smuggler Mountain. Both sides have contributed to the failure of this option, even if Wilk contributed a little more heavily because of his heightened sense of value. Now the county is proposing that only Wilk’s property be downzoned on Smuggler. It appears that the other landowners who might fight back were dropped from the downzoning. So the county instead decided to focus its resources on an almost unlimited ability to litigate on the property of a sick man so that we can buy it cheaper? Shame on us all. The road is an asset to the community but we are wrong to “steal” it.I urge you to drop this idea of downzoning yet again and leave Smuggler Mountain as it is, at 5,750 square feet. Shellie RoyAspen