Judge affirms county’s rural zoning rules
Ninth District Court Judge Peter Craven handed Pitkin County a major victory in its effort to limit backcountry development Monday.
In a succinctly written opinion, Craven threw out landowner Richard Nye’s claims that the county commissioners abused their discretion when they denied his application to build a 2,000-square-foot garage high on the backside of Aspen Mountain. The judge even took a moment in his decision to call Nye’s arguments “strident (and distracting) invective.”
By denying every claim made by Nye’s attorneys, Craven affirmed the legitimacy of Pitkin County’s Rural and Remote zoning, and upheld its right to enforce changes in the zoning code. He also left open a counter claim by the county seeking a court order to remove a temporary structure that Nye has been using to store his Snowcat.
“The ruling affirms the fact that once a property is rezoned, you don’t have any right to build under the prior zoning unless you’ve already built something,” said Assistant County Attorney Debbie Quinn.
Nye lives part-time in one of the largest homes in the upper reaches of Little Annie Basin, a 3,500-square-foot house at the intersection of Midnight Mine and Little Annie roads. In 1997, the county commissioners unanimously denied his application to add the garage to his house.
Nye’s suit, filed under the name Mt. Valley Equity Venture, Inc., a holding company over which he presides, contended the county commissioners held a personal bias against him when they denied his application.
Judge Craven wrote, “Stripping the Plaintiff’s arguments from the accompanying strident (and often distracting) invective, the Plaintiff’s arguments are basically these: the BOCC acted arbitrarily and capriciously in entering its findings and conclusions; the BOCC misapplied its own zoning code and applicable law; Mountain Valley [Nye’s holding company which owns the property] had vested rights, which preclude the BOCC from denying its garage application; the County had a duty to grant the garage application, which the county breached; and, substantive and procedural irregularities deprived Mountain Valley of due process.”
Craven’s ruling proceeded to dismantle Nye’s arguments one by one. He found the county had “ample basis” for denying the garage under Rural and Remote zoning. He pointed out that Nye’s original approval was for a 2,156-square-foot home and garage, and noted that the county allowed a bigger house and the property owner then chose not to build a garage.
And Craven found no merit Nye’s claim that he should be exempt from Rural and Remote zoning because the original application for the home and garage was approved before Rural and Remote existed.
Nye’s attorney, Matt Ferguson, did not return calls seeking comment.
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