Fryingpan Caucus seeks moratorium
A political spat as hot as a summer day is heating up in the upper Fryingpan River Valley. Members of the Fryingpan Caucus are set to meet with the Pitkin County commissioners today to work out what has developed into a sizable rift in the group over the course of growth in that scenic reach of the river.
At issue is a work in progress, a land-use master plan for the upper Fryingpan Valley that would strongly limit both residential and commercial development. Some members of the caucus plan to ask commissioners to impose a building moratorium on the area until the master plan is completed.
Based on the wishes of the 100-plus members of the caucus, who were surveyed as part of the planning process, the master plan would prohibit multifamily development and limit construction of single-family homes. Subdivisions would also be prohibited.
Further, commercial growth would be limited to the towns of Meredith and Thomasville. And no additional campgrounds would be allowed.
According to the survey results, a sizable majority of the caucus supports the plan, but a vocal minority opposes the plan’s growth scenario.
What has brought the caucus to the commissioners’ table is a move by some members to block a subdivision plan until the master plan is adopted. Caucus member Jack Wheeler wants to develop his 45-acre property in Meredith, He owns Double Diamond Outfitters.
Opponents will ask the commissioners to impose a moratorium on developments until the master plan is completed.
Caucus member John Swomley said he is not opposed to Wheeler’s development, but believes he “should wait until the master plan is implemented.” Uncontrolled growth should not be allowed in the upper Fryingpan Valley, he added.
The Wheeler subdivision could act as a catalyst for more development. “What does it mean in terms of opening up other land for development?” Swomley asked.
The growth debate highlights a long-standing rift between year-round residents, like Wheeler, and summer residents who have pushed for the master plan to limit growth.
Land use in the upper Fryingpan has been a matter of contention before. Some years ago, concern over the county’s AFR-10 zoning triggered the formation of the caucus. That zoning, which calls for a maximum of 10 units per acre, remains in place. But the master plan would reduce that density in some areas to one unit per 35 acres.
Cindy Houben, Pitkin County’s head planner, pointed out Redstone enacted its own zoning, dubbed “village commercial,” which imposes stronger restrictions than Pitkin County’s commercial zoning.
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Mario Ruiz came to Aspen Highlands from Bariloche through the ski patrol exchange as part of the Sister Cities program last winter. He quickly ingrained himself with the Highlands patrol. Ruiz was killed July 27 in an avalanche while working at his home ski area. The Highlands patrol is raising funds for his family.