Mayor: Peter Droste is lying | AspenTimes.com
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Mayor: Peter Droste is lying

Aspen Times Staff Report

So Manchester asked the town’s attorney, Steven Conner, for his opinion about Droste’s claims. The lawyer then made his case against Droste in the form of a memo to the Town Council.

“Recent correspondence, newspaper articles and letters to the editor have made claims and assertions regarding the [conservation] easement that are not founded in fact,” Conner wrote.

Conner, who has been the town’s attorney for over a decade, then goes on to flatly refute each of the claims Droste made that were published March 13.

The letter focused on the issues surrounding a conservation easement that Snowmass Village and Pitkin County purchased from the Droste family in 1999 for $7.5 million.

One of Droste’s claims is that the conservation easement granted him the right to build a road to a homesite on his property, which runs along the ridge between Brush Creek and Owl Creek.

In his letter, Droste writes that “a road was permitted to access the `Droste Future Development Lands.’ This was also clearly stated in the contract.”

Conner disagrees.

“Contrary to Peter Droste’s assertions, an access road has not been authorized and approved by the terms and conditions of the conservation easement,” Conner wrote. “I am unable to comprehend how Mr. Droste can assert that the conservation easement has somehow mutated into a pre-existing approval of a driveway to a proposed building site on the Droste Future Development Lands.”

The proposed road/driveway is at the heart of battle being waged between Droste and Pitkin County.

On Feb. 22, the county denied Droste’s applications to build the road and create the homesite, which has expansive views of the local ski areas.

The access to the site would cost an estimated $4 million to build and would require seven bridges and two tunnels. And if the road is approved, Droste plans to then build up to 20 units on the ridge, which he claims could be worth at least $60 million.

Droste has challenged the county’s denial as a taking of private property, and he is also challenging the integrity and authority of the Pitkin County Commissioners.

Through his attorney, Wayne Schroeder of the Denver firm Grimshaw and Harring, Droste has claimed that three of the five commissioners are biased and prejudiced against the application. He also claims that they have no authority to rule on a takings hearing, and that the Droste parcel in question is exempt from the county’s 1041 regulations, which prevent development in sensitive wildlife habitat.

Droste said that if he prevails in his battle against the county, he will claim breach of the conservation easement contract and then make the case that he gets to both develop the land and keep the money paid for the conservation easement.

“… if the contract is breached, we get to keep the money,” Droste wrote in his letter.

But Conner disagrees, noting that “there is no provision for forfeiture of the town’s interest in the conservation easement …”

Droste also claims that he sold the conservation easement for $7.5 million to the town and the county instead of the $12 million it was worth because the deal allowed him to transfer development rights from the preserved land to his neighboring parcel.

But Conner stated that “there is no provision in the contract that contemplates or authorizes a transfer of development rights to any other land, and the statements of Mr. Droste are erroneous.” He also points out an independent appraisal of the land that valued the property at $7.9 million.

Conner also rebukes Droste’s assertion that Snowmass Village and Pitkin County are supposed to pay for all legal fees in the dispute.

Conner said “the continuing statements of Peter Droste that the contract provisions survive the closing and require the Town to pay his attorney fees under certain circumstances are erroneous …”

Droste’s attorney was contacted for comment yesterday but didn’t respond to the mayor’s and town attorney’s statements.

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