Holding company challenges county over zoning change
A holding company that owns nearly 55 acres near Aspen Mountain is suing Pitkin County in district court after the property was rezoned last month.Before the rezoning, the land owned by Imago LLC was part of the county’s agricultural/residential/forestry (AFR-10) zone district in which homes of up to 15,000 square feet were allowed. Larger homes were permitted with special review.On March 23, the county rezoned the land into its rural and remote district, meaning homes on the property are now limited to 1,000 square feet. The county “undertook the downzoning of the plaintiff’s property in the course of a wide-sweeping rezoning effort that included properties within a large area known generally as the Castle/Maroon Creek planning area,” the lawsuit says.The land – owned by Imago, a company made up of real estate investors – is on the ridge and upper part of Keno Gulch above Castle Creek. The lawsuit contends that the property should not have been included in the downzoning.”Our main position is that the county is supposed to zone pursuant to its master plan,” said Bart Johnson, the lawyer representing Imago. “When you read the master plan for this area, the nearest property that had been designated to be rezoned to rural and remote was eight miles away.”So how did Imago’s property end up being included in the rezoning? “That’s an excellent question. That’s what we want to know.”County officials could not be reached for comment.The lawsuit points to a possible motive. It says that another property included in the rezoning is a mining claim called the Kitty B Lode.”The county owns an undivided interest in the Kitty B Lode. The county acquired this interest by a tax deed,” according to the court papers. “By rezoning the [mining claim] to the rural/remote zone district, [the county] has made the Kitty B Lode (and potentially other mining claims owned by the county) eligible for the creation of a valuable transferable development right.”[The county] had an undisclosed motive in enacting the [rezoning] ordinance for the purpose of stripping the transferable development right from the county-owned property and other neighboring properties and then arranging for these properties to be donated to the U.S. Forest Service.”Additionally, the lawsuit says the county staff “did not prepare a written report demonstrating that the proposed rezoning complied with the review standards of … the county land use code.”Johnson said his client had submitted an application to build a home.”They did have an application filed with the county for approval of a building envelope for the development of one home,” he said. “We, as landowners, have a right to rely on what the master plan calls for.”Imago wants the rezoning ordinance invalidated and wants a judge to declare that its property is still zoned AFR-10.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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