Owsley: commissioners have a responsibility to the land | AspenTimes.com
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Owsley: commissioners have a responsibility to the land

Eben Harrell

Michael Owsley is a Woody Creek man, through and through. But that’s not why he thinks you should vote for him in the Pitkin County commissioner primary on Aug. 10.For the past 10 years Owsley, a Democrat, has been a spokesmen for the Woody Creek Caucus, which represents residents in the semirural area west of Aspen. In recent years the caucus, with Owsley in the lead, has vociferously opposed development outside the county’s urban areas. And their views have not gone unnoticed. Woody Creekers are reputedly good citizens, but they are also extreme, stubborn and noisy in their opposition to growth.Predictably, Owsley says land use and development are the key issues in the commissioner race, but he insists his views on growth are far more tempered than his Woody Creek reputation.

To Owsley, the Woody Creek Caucus has been a canary in the mine shaft; the growth issues that face Woody Creek are slowly creeping throughout the valley.”The reason Woody Creek has been so involved with land use is because of its proximity to Aspen,” Owsley says. “We’ve had to face the spillover from Aspen first. We’ve been forced out of the trenches before the other caucuses.”Owsley defers from attacking the current board’s stance on growth, but he does criticize incumbent Shellie Roy’s attitude toward the Urban Growth Boundary. The boundary determines where high-density growth, such as housing complexes, can be constructed.”There’s a solid line in this county between rural and urban development,” Owsley says. “I don’t think Shellie is particularly interested in that boundary. She’d like to see high-density growth outside of that boundary.”

Owsley, the married father of two daughters, has been a Pitkin County resident for 34 years. Over the years he’s held an assortment of jobs, including ski patroller, cabinetmaker and, most recently, construction site supervisor.It is this latter position that has given him an intimate understanding of the county’s land-use codes, Owsley claims. It’s also convinced him that the simplification of the code – a process currently under way – is an important priority.”People who come to the commissioner meetings need to be able to understand what on earth is going on,” Owsley says.Along with protecting rural areas, Owsley has a pet project he’ll undertake if elected.

“I’d like to see low-cost, reliable flights to Denver,” Owsley says. “Right now, we are in the grips of a monopoly. It’s just not affordable to fly to Denver on business or take your family on vacation. The first thing I’d do if elected would be to send out a request for proposals to low-cost airlines to run a service between Aspen and Denver.”Owsley says his policies are guided by a belief in the sanctity of the county’s beautiful terrain. To Owsley, that beauty deserves sacrifice.”In Aspen we are at the top of the pyramid,” he says. “And it’s a nice view down. But we have to remember we are standing on the shoulders of the rest of the country. We have a responsibility not to consume all the resources that make this place special. Houses should not pollute. Growth should be reasonable. And a county commissioner should lead the way on that.”Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is eharrell@aspentimes.com


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