Droste purchase wins final Pitkin County approval
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County intends to hand over a check for $17 million Wednesday to purchase 841 acres from brothers Peter and Bruce Droste, fronting money to come from its partners in the deal and covering a $1.3 million shortfall in the envisioned funding scheme.
County commissioners voted 4-0 on Monday to approve an emergency ordinance giving final authorization to proceed with the purchase, following on the heels of a vote of recommendation from three members of the Open Space and Trails board of trustees. Commissioner Michael Owsley was absent.
Title issues remain to be cleared up by Wednesday afternoon’s closing, but County Attorney John Ely said he expects resolution of those hurdles.
“I believe this is a capstone acquisition for our Open Space and Trails program,” said Commissioner George Newman.
“I do think this is a crowning achievement,” agreed Commissioner Rachel Richards, noting various other highly visible open space parcels that have been protected from development – sites where the public may not realize what might have been built.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to see what’s not there,” she said.
The Droste purchase will preserve the scenic ridge separating the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys outside of Snowmass Village, where the county previously approved the development of nine large homes.
“It was with some heartache that we approved the development of the property,” recalled Commissioner Patti Kay-Clapper. It’s with joy that the county will purchase it, she added.
“When you think, just a year ago, this was not on the radar screen as a budgeted item, we’ve come a long way,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
The acquisition will add to the some 2,300 acres of land already purchased or conserved in the area.
The county had hoped to cap its contribution to the purchase at $10 million in open space funds, with an additional $2.5 million to come from a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, $1 million from the city of Aspen and $2 million from the town of Snowmass Village. The remaining $1.5 million was to be raised privately, but so far, a $100,000 private contribution has been proffered. Aspen Valley Land Trust will match the $100,000 and other contributions, up to $250,000.
Open Space and Trails intends to continue the fundraising push, but officials concede that effort will be more difficult once the transaction is a done deal.
To appropriate the entire $17 million on Wednesday, the county will use a combination of existing balances in its open space and general funds, to be repaid in the first quarter of next year through reimbursements from GOCO and the initial payments from Aspen and Snowmass Village, plus the sale of $10 million in bonds.
Paying off the $10 million debt will cost about $600,000 annually for 30 years.
Transaction fees will add $100,000 to the Droste price tag.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.