Garfield County wants meeting with Pitkin County about the Sutey swap
November 12, 2009
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – No date has been set for a meeting between the two counties involved with the proposed Sutey Ranch land swap, although at least one of the counties is eager for such a meeting to take place.
The Garfield County commissioners this week sent a message to their counterparts in Pitkin County, asking for a meeting to talk about the swap before Pitkin County makes a decision to either endorse the trade or oppose it.
Garfield County had endorsed the proposed land swap.
The controversial part of the deal would turn over to retail billionaire Leslie Wexner 1,268 acres, now held by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, at the base of Mount Sopris near Carbondale.
In return, Wexner would turn over to public ownership the 513-acre Sutey Ranch, located near the Red Hill recreation area, north of Carbondale.
The BLM land is in Pitkin County, and the Sutey Ranch is in Garfield County. Proponents say local support is key to winning ultimate approval for the trade from the U.S. Congress, and that if the deal falls through, Sutey Ranch could be developed with up to 200 high-end homes.
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The deal has the support of nearby municipalities, property owners and the Aspen Valley and Eagle Valley land trusts.
Wexner purchased the Sutey Ranch for $6.5 million with the trade in mind, hoping to add the BLM acreage to his Two Shoes Ranch, which surrounds the BLM land on three sides.
The Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board, citing qualms about the privatization of public lands as well as doubts that the proposal would be a fair trade for the public, recommended in October that the Pitkin County commissioners oppose the swap.
Wexner’s representatives recently sweetened the deal with $1 million worth of enticements, including $750,000 for a Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program land acquisition.
The Pitkin County commissioners, meeting behind closed doors this week, failed to reach a decision on the matter. They are expected to meet on Nov. 17, again in secret session, to further discuss the issue.
According to Pitkin County staffers, the Garfield County letter was received on Nov. 9, the same day it was sent, but County Manager Hilary Fletcher was out of town and could not be contacted on Wednesday to see if a meeting had been arranged.
Garfield County offices were closed on Wednesday in observance of Veterans Day, and county manager Ed Green could not be reached for comment.
At the Garfield County Commissioners’ meeting on Nov. 9, the issue was raised by Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who informed her fellow commissioners that the Pitkin County board might make a decision on Nov. 10.
Houpt recommended that the letter be sent, urging the Pitkin County officials to hold off until Garfield County had a chance to review Wexner’s incentives.