Offer may end Brush Creek land dispute
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The latest offer from one of the valley’s most stubborn and ambitious developers may end up preserving some of the upper valley’s most important habitat.
Peter Droste has come up with a development plan for his land that could bring to rest a property rights dispute with Pitkin County that’s currently working its way through the court system, according to county sources.
In executive session Monday afternoon, the county commissioners authorized their community development department to continue the work needed to analyze Droste’s latest proposal.
The Droste family property, more than 800 acres in all, is located in both the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys and the hills in between. It is home to what wildlife experts say is a vital migration corridor and winter range for the Burnt Mountain elk herd.
The source, whose information was corroborated by Commissioner Shellie Roy, said the plan involves both fewer homesites and a relocation of the development to a less sensitive area of the property.
“The wildlife corridor is the key to it – location is a big factor,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
At Monday’s executive session, the commissioners directed Jonathon Lowsky, the county’s wildlife biologist, to take a closer look at Droste’s proposal. Lowsky and other wildlife experts, including the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Kevin Wright, have opposed previous plans to develop the ridge line between Brush and Owl creeks with as many as two-dozen homes because it would severely affect critical habitat.
The Droste family’s attempts to develop their property have been snuffed by the county commissioners for four years.
The commissioners have used the wildlife protections in the land-use code to deny the plans, which have involved more than 20 homes along the ridge overlooking Brush Creek and on the south-facing slopes overlooking Owl Creek.
The Chicago-area resident and his attorney had claimed the county’s actions were denying the family of its right to earn money from its property. But the commissioners pointed out that taxpayers have paid them just under $8 million to conserve vast tracts of the ranch in the Brush Creek drainage.
In the mid-1990s, the Drostes sold the county about 100 acres for nearly $500,000. In 1999, the family was paid about $7.5 million by the town of Snowmass Village for a conservation easement over 500 acres in the Brush Creek Valley.
Neither of Droste’s representatives in his dealings with the county, attorney Wayne Schroeder and planning consultant Francis Krizmanich, were willing to elaborate on the latest round of negotiations.
“Peter’s always been open to negotiating some kind of deal,” Krizmanich said. “It gets old to be endlessly turned down.”
Roy said she is cautious about the plan, because it is at such an early stage and would require cooperation from several parties, including governments and private landowners. But she credited Droste for coming up with “the first reasonable thing that I’ve seen put forward for that property in a long, long time.
“Peter has an idea that – if he’s serious about it, and we can pull it off – would be really good for everybody,” Roy said.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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