Droste deal ready for OK | AspenTimes.com

Droste deal ready for OK

The town of Snowmass Village agreed yesterday to pay $7.5 million to protect 500 acres of prime real estate along Brush Creek.

In announcing the deal, Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester expressed regret that the town was not able to buy the entire Droste ranch. But he said the agreement to place a conservation easement on more than half the property goes a long way toward protecting critical wildlife habitat and scenery.

“The primary value of this is preserving the open character of the valley floor,” he said.

If the deal is approved by the Town Council next month, it will place a 500-acre conservation easement on the most visible portions of the family’s land.

The Drostes own much of the undeveloped valley floor and hillside along the lower portion of Brush Creek Road. The agreement will protect all of the valley floor and the lower two-thirds of the hillside. The family will retain ownership of the entire ranch, and still have the right to build homes along the ridge and on the property that faces Owl Creek, Manchester said.

The deal represents fairly significant compromises on both sides, although it appears the family got most of what it wanted.

The most potentially controversial concession from the town is an easement that allows the family to build an access road across the valley and up the hillside to provide access to homesites along the ridge. “There may need to be a road built up the side of the hill,” Manchester conceded.

But the agreement ensures the valley will only be bisected by pavement once by requiring access rights for any homes developed on neighboring Seven Star Ranch.

Manchester said the biggest concession from the family is the retirement of development rights on the 500-acre conservation easement. State law allows development rights to be transferred off land that is being placed in a conservation easement. Manchester noted that the family has retained development rights from a 99-acre conservation easement owned by the county.

By giving up those rights, the family agreed to cut the number possible homesites from 23 to 11.

The deal allows for a bicycle trail next to the road and a walking trail along the stream. It also requires the family to rehabilitate the valley floor and either grow hay or restore the natural vegetation; a small portion of the easement can be used to graze horses, Manchester said.

The agreement bans commercial uses of the property in the easement, so Snowmass Stables, which leases land from the Drostes, will be required to relocate.

The overall deal falls far short of the town’s original goal when negotiations began two years ago. Government leaders initially promised to purchase all or some of the property, and last fall they convinced voters to authorize the town to borrow $7.1 million to make the deal.

At the time, Manchester and others running for the Town Council vowed not to allow a road to be built. They also estimated the total cost of the land to be $14 million to $17 million.

Negotiations were derailed in March, after the Drostes upped the purchase price to more than $30 million. After a spring and summer filled with fits and starts, the negotiations settled down in late August, leading up to yesterday’s agreement.

A public meeting to discuss the deal will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Snowmass Conference Center. The council is expected to vote on the deal Oct. 11.

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