Land exchange on Shadow Mountain likely headed to Aspen voters

City Council about ready to place ordinance to November ballot

Aspen voters will likely decide this fall on a land exchange that if approved would put a 19-acre conservation easement across Shadow Mountain, preventing future development and guaranteeing public access and recreational opportunities.

Aspen City Council on Tuesday continued the hearing to approve an ordinance that puts the question on the Nov. 2 ballot until next week so that workforce housing mitigation details for any future development beyond the land exchange can get hashed out.

By approving the deal with a homeowner who lives at 501 W. Hopkins Ave., located next to the Midland Trail, he gets 4,000 square feet of public-right-of-way around his 7,500-square-foot lot.

In exchange, homeowner Bob Olson gives up 841,971 square feet of land that is equal to more than 14 full city blocks, and is more than 210 times that of the land he stands to acquire.

His company, Newport Beach, California-based R.D. Olson Investments II, LLC, bought the land in 2018 for $1 million for prophylactic purposes to ensure that no one could do or propose anything he might oppose right behind his home, according to Olson’s land use planner Mitch Haas.

The parcel is known as the Pride of Aspen mining claim and if voters approve the land exchange, the city parks department and Pitkin County’s open space program will own it in perpetuity.

The additional square footage to Olson’s property would allow better access and more landscaping around the home, along with setbacks that would provide a buffer to the adjacent Midland Trail.

“Acquiring 4,000 of new land would bestow additional development rights on this property and it could potentially bring new development closer to the Midland Avenue Trail so this landscape easement would serve as that visual buffer,” said Kevin Rayes, a planner for the city.

As part of the land exchange, between 360 square feet and 780 square feet of additional floor area, depending on the proposal and land use code regulations, could be added to the existing 3,450-square-foot home.

Olson also is asking to create what is known as a planned development overlay, which helps facilitate the proposed land exchange.

The purpose of establishing a PD overlay is to memorialize a building envelope and to prescribe allowable floor area for the property.

The conservation easement would extend from Hopkins Avenue to the top of Shadow Mountain and back down its westerly side to and across Castle Creek.

The Shadow Mountain areas between those two ends of the conservation easement are characterized by steep slopes, dense forest and rock outcroppings.

On the opposite end of the conservation easement parcel, there is some flat area along both sides of Castle Creek, which runs through the parcel to the end of South Seventh Street.

The base of the conservation parcel is at 7,940 feet in elevation. The first 100 feet has an area of recognizable piles of mine rock and existing city trail crossings.

The Little Cloud Trail could see improvements to it in the form of realignment, as the current steep grade is a result of development in a nearby subdivision.

Council members voiced support Tuesday for placing it on the ballot once the complicated housing mitigation is sorted out and included in a resolution and ordinance allowing it to be sent to voters, which is expected to be approved Aug. 31.

“I see this as close to a no-brainer as possible,” Councilman Ward Hauenstein said.


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