Droste development keys wildlife concerns for Pitkin County | AspenTimes.com

Droste development keys wildlife concerns for Pitkin County

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Wildlife impacts rose to the top of the list Wednesday when Pitkin County commissioners took their initial look at a new plan to build 10 homes in the hills above the Brush Creek Valley.

The proposed Brush Creek Ranch development, on the Droste family property, calls for a cluster of 10 homes tucked out of sight above the valley floor, plus an eleventh lot in the valley encompassing a collection of ranch buildings that already exist. A road cutting into the hills on the south side of Brush Creek Road would access the houses.

Significant excavation would make the homes invisible from the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys, as well as from Highway 82, commissioners were told, but the road will be visible from the Brush Creek side. The building sites are some 800 to 900 feet above the Brush Creek Valley, said landowner Peter Droste. The valley stretches between Highway 82 and Snowmass Village.

Even more important than the visual impacts of the development, said some commissioners, will be the potential impact on wildlife, particularly the elk herd that moves across the hills that separate the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys.

“I’m even more concerned with the wildlife impacts,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards, who asked for detailed maps of the elk habitat, winter range and migration corridors in the greater area. She also suggested an independent wildlife consultant be hired to review the development and asked that a Colorado Division of Wildlife representative accompany commissioners on a June 15 visit to the site.

“I’m going to very much want to understand if the site can accommodate 10 lots with respect to wildlife,” agreed Commissioner Jack Hatfield.

“The wildlife is a concern, certainly, but we’ve done what we need to do to address that concern,” said Francis Krizmanich, the land-use planning consultant representing the Drostes.

Attempts by the Droste family to develop homesites on the sensitive land have been rebuffed by the county before.

Nearly 600 acres of the 926-acre property have been protected through conservation easements purchased by the county and Town of Snowmass Village.

The newest proposal is the first development application under the county’s Low Impact Residential zoning, adopted with the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys in mind to allow large lots in combination with land conservation and low density.

Homes of up to 8,250 square feet would be allowed under the zoning. The county staff and Planning and Zoning Commission have recommended against allowing additional floor area of up to 15,000 square feet per house through the purchase of transferable development rights.

The staff has also recommended homeowners at the site not be allowed to have dogs and against the inclusion of a barn and corral site within the development, suggesting those uses be relegated to the valley floor.

Though commissioners had their first review of the conceptual plans Wednesday before continuing the hearing until June 24, Hatfield was quick to question whether the development aligns with the intent of Low Impact Residential zoning.

“To me the threshold question before us in the zoning issue,” he said. “The result of that is supposed to be low impacts. This application is about high impacts.”



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