Pitco pays big bucks for Little Chief
Pitkin County recently snuffed the development potential on one of the last two islands of private property remaining within the national forest in the Hunter Creek Valley.The Pitkin County Trails and Open Space Program paid $375,000 to acquire the 9.8-acre Little Chief patented mining claim from Lyle Reeder of Aspen. Reeder donated a conservation easement on the land to the Aspen Valley Land Trust to gain tax advantages, then sold the land to the county.”Anytime you can take out an inholding it’s important,” said AVLT Executive Director Martha Cochran.Development of inholdings – islands of private property surrounded by national forest or other public lands – has become controversial in Colorado and other Western states during the building boom in recent decades. The development of those parcels can have far-reaching effects on surrounding public lands.That would have been the case with the Little Chief, according to Dale Will, executive director of the county open space program. Although development was limited to a 1,000-square-foot cabin by the county’s rural and remote zoning laws, backcountry travelers would have had to contend with construction traffic, improved roads and altered views, Will said.The Little Chief is located 6.5 miles from downtown Aspen, according to Reeder. It’s a secluded patch of ground on the road that leads from Van Horn Park to the McNamara backcountry ski hut.Reeder had the property on the market for $950,000. “I did have lookers,” he said.Will said the $375,000 investment was well worth it, considering the potential effects of development and the sales prices of other land affected by rural and remote zoning. Property in the Little Annie area has sold for more than $1 million even though development is limited to a 1,000-square-foot cabin, he said. And a similar piece of property near Lenado fetched about $500,000, according to Will.”This acquisition moves everyone closer to the goal of an undeveloped Hunter Creek Valley,” he said.The only remaining private inholding in Hunter Creek belongs to Bill and Janet Mohrman. Their patented mining claim is located next to the Little Chief.This isn’t the first time Reeder has worked with a public agency to prevent development in Hunter Creek. He said he traded 109 acres to the U.S. Forest Service for an acre in Aspen near the base of Shadow Mountain about 20 years ago. He has approvals to build a home of up to 14,550 square feet on the lot in Aspen. A citizens’ group called Friends of Shadow Mountain is trying to prevent development and urging Pitkin County and the city of Aspen to acquire the land for open space.Reeder said facing that opposition after he helped prevent development on 109 acres in Hunter Creek makes him feel “like I’ve been run over with a freight train.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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