Droste sues Pitco, says development ban unlawful
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A property owner is suing the Pitkin County commissioners, claiming the county’s recent moratorium on development near Snowmass Village is unlawfully hampering his construction plans.
Peter Droste, who along with his family owns 925 acres between Aspen and Snowmass Village, filed the lawsuit in Pitkin County District Court on Wednesday.
According to the suit, the Droste Ranch was designated in 1975 by the county as including “natural resources of statewide importance.” The ranch apparently fell under the Areas and Activities of State Interest Act, was determined to be within a migration corridor during the winter and was designated a “critical habitat.”
In March, the county responded to Droste’s application to develop three single-family residences on three 35-acre parcels with an emergency ordinance. The measure placed a temporary moratorium on development applications in the Owl Creek and lower Brush Creek areas.
The ordinance cites a state law that requires land-use plans for Pitkin County to be in place by the beginning of next year as a primary reason for the development ban.
The moratorium area is bordered on the north by Highway 82 between Brush Creek Road and Owl Creek Road. It includes the entire Brush Creek Valley to the town limit of Snowmass Village. Brush Creek Village at the bottom of the valley is not within the moratorium area. All of the Owl Creek Caucus area is impacted by the measure.
Droste owns much of the undeveloped ridge that separates Brush Creek from Owl Creek.
Most neighborhoods in the county either have master plans in place or are in the process of developing them, so broad moratoriums on development are not contemplated elsewhere, county officials say.
The moratorium, set to last two months, can be extended with another vote of the commissioners. In the suit, Droste says a memo dated May 5 from county staff to the commissioners recommends the moratorium remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2004.
The lawsuit contends the moratorium’s length violates a state law that places a six-month limit on temporary regulations.
It also states the land had already been placed in a zone district in which single-family dwellings are “allowed by right.” According to the suit, temporary regulations are only to be adopted by a county before the first or original zoning plan.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims the moratorium is void for not complying with public hearing requirements mandated by state law, including accepting “oral and written public comments throughout the process of developing the [master] plan.”
Droste has sued the county for three previous denials of development applications for property on the upper ridge. According to county attorney John Ely, all three suits are still pending.
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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