Droste demands a takings hearing | AspenTimes.com

Droste demands a takings hearing

Brent Gardner-Smith

The Droste family thinks Pitkin County owes them $55 million because the county won’t let them build a large home and an access road.So the Drostes’ attorney is seeking a takings hearing from the Pitkin County Commissioners. And if the commissioners don’t agree that the county’s recent denial of two land-use applications strips the property of its full economic value, then they’ll likely see the Drostes in court.”If the Drostes are denied the permits they seek, they shall have no alternative but to seek appropriate judicial relief,” Droste attorney Wayne Schroeder said in his takings hearing request.The request for a takings hearing is the latest step in a land-use battle over 20 potential homesites on the ridge between the Owl Creek and Brush Creek valleys. The ridge has both incredible views of the four ski areas and highly sensitive and increasingly rare elk habitat.Those 20 homesites could fetch an average of $2.75 million each, according to a local real estate broker working for the Drostes.Last week, Pitkin County Hearing Officer Jim True denied the two applications because both the access road and the proposed homesite are in the type of sensitive elk habitat that cannot be developed under county regulations.This week, Schroeder, with the Denver law firm of Grimshaw & Haring, formally requested a takings hearing.But first, he challenged the county commissioners’ right to even make a takings determination under the state constitution. He argued that the board would be serving in both an executive and judicial capacity, a violation of the division between branches of government.And Schroeder claims that the 304-acre Droste parcel in question is also exempt from the county’s 1041 regulations, which seek to prevent building in wildlife habitat and in locales vulnerable to wildfires, floods, avalanches and other hazards.If Schroeder is successful in arguing the Droste property is exempt from 1041, it could set a statewide precedent that could lower the threshold for development in other counties.There are other stakes being raised as well.If the Drostes win their case, they will claim that it constitutes a breach of contract and that Pitkin County should lose the $7.5 million it paid for a conservation easement on a separate 500-acre section of the Droste family property. The property could then be developed with a house every 10 acres, according to the family.Peter Droste, who is the family’s spokesman on the issue, believes that Pitkin County has negotiated with him in bad faith. He feels that the agreements setting up the conservation easements on a portion of his property also give him the right to build an access road to his remaining property on top of the ridge, even if it is in habitat considered crucial for elk in harsh winters.”Why would Pitkin County sign on to an agreement which would force development into severe winter range?” Droste once asked in a letter. “Did they have no intention of honoring the intent of the agreement, anyway?”Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland has said that Droste was never given permission to build his proposed access road.”When enough money is at stake, people will resort to any tactic,” said Ireland.Return to The Aspen Times or AspenAlive.com Comments about this article? Send them to mail@aspentimes.comLooking for a particular article? Search our Daily ArchivesPosted: Friday, March 2, 2001

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