Drostes protest property value of Brush Creek land

Janet Urquhart

Local landowner Peter Droste is pushing state legislation that would curtail Pitkin County’s ability to regulate development of his property, but in the meantime, he contends his family’s land has little value.

As yet, Droste has been unable to gain a development approval for any of nine lots on about 325 acres between the Brush Creek Valley and Owl Creek Ranch. At the moment, there isn’t even a road to the parcels, located in the sage brush-covered hills outside of Snowmass Village.

Lacking approval for either the homes or a road, Droste contends the lots are worth about $338 apiece. Nonetheless, the family listed one for sale at $5 million.

The county assessor’s office has assigned the lots a value of $1.1 million apiece.

The family is protesting the county assessment; a hearing on their appeal was scheduled last week before the State Board of Assessment Appeals in Grand Junction. The proceedings were postponed, however, as Droste was in Denver lobbying for committee approval of a Senate bill that would exempt the property from county regulations that have thwarted development plans thus far.

In total, the assessor’s office has valued the parcels at $9.9 million. Droste estimated the land’s total value at $3,043, according to a petition filed with the State Board of Assessment Appeals by brothers Peter and Bruce Droste.

“Their whole point is, since the county has denied access and use of their property, its value is essentially negligible,” said Larry Fite, the county’s chief appraiser.

Among the documents the county is submitting for the state’s consideration is the real estate listing for the lot above Owl Creek Ranch that the family put on the market for $5 million.

The lot doesn’t currently have road access. “We took that into consideration,” said Assessor Tom Isaac.

The assessor’s office has valued the property on the assumption that it has development value, though Droste and the county have not yet come up with a scheme that both parties find acceptable.

“Ultimately, on parcels such as this, some sort of development is likely to be approved,” Fite said.

The 2003 property tax bill for each of the nine parcels, based on the county’s assessment, was $7,774.34, according to assessor’s office records.

Had the parcels been valued at $338 apiece, as the Drostes contend they should be, the tax bill per parcel would have been $2.43, according to Fite.

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