Eagle County reins in its plans for Sopris Tree Farm | AspenTimes.com

Eagle County reins in its plans for Sopris Tree Farm

Eagle County officials scrambled to make their proposal for an office building at the Mt. Sopris Tree Farm as innocuous as possible yesterday – one day before they try to earn public support.

The Eagle County commissioners worked out an agreement with the Pitkin County commissioners that will add a relatively small amount of space to the proposed government offices. That additional space would be reserved for future Pitkin County offices.

Eagle County also flat-out rejected Pitkin County Commissioner Leslie Lamont’s suggestion that a detoxification center be included in the tree farm office building. Lamont said Pitkin County has unsuccessfully searched for a site for a detox facility for at least the last five years.

Eagle County Commissioner Johnnette Phillips told her not to consider the tree farm as an option. She indicated she expects public opposition to the project and doesn’t want it to become an easier target.

“We know how the neighbors feel about the facility being built, let alone a detox facility,” said Phillips. Its inclusion in the proposal would “blow this out of the water.”

The review of the office building starts today with a public meeting held by the Roaring Fork Valley Regional Planning Commission, an advisory board for the commissioners. The meeting will be at 2:30 p.m. in Basalt Town Hall.

The Eagle County commissioners also expressed concerns about Pitkin County’s determination to reserve extra space for offices. Space is at premium at the tree farm – the governments want some, as do proponents of recreational facilities.

However, the amount of building allowed on the 123-acre site behind the El Jebel Amoco is limited by an agreement with the federal government.

When the counties acquired the property in a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service in 1994, they agreed not to increase the net amount of footprint space – the amount of ground the existing buildings covered.

The counties inherited eight buildings for a total of 39,000 square feet. However, they are claiming a “liberal interpretation” of the agreement would also allow them to count cement pads for a former greenhouse and shade building that the Forest Service used at the tree farm.

Such creative accounting would double the total allowable square footage to about 78,000 square feet.

The commissioners of the two counties didn’t discuss the liberal or conservative counts of square footage Wednesday.

But Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone stressed that the amount of office space should be kept to a minimum.

“If there’s any envelope we should push, it’s to keep as much of it as possible for open space and recreational use,” said Stone.

Eagle County submitted a plan, to itself, this spring to build a 15,000-square-foot office building in the northeast corner of the tree farm. That building has a 10,800-square-foot footprint and reserved at least 28,200 square feet for recreational facilities.

Pitkin County officials announced earlier this year they wanted another 15,000 square feet reserved for their own future office needs.

Recreational facility planners cried foul and Eagle County officials expressed surprise that the request was made at the 11th hour of planning.

Pitkin County scaled back its request for reserved office space to 5,000 square feet on Wednesday. Two-story design options could pare the footprint needed for that space down anywhere from 2,500 to 3,500 square feet.

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