Pitco temporarily bars development in two neighborhoods
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Pitkin County enacted an emergency moratorium yesterday that temporarily bars new development in the entire Owl Creek neighborhood and much of the Brush Creek neighborhood.
The county is also on the verge of adopting a more limited moratorium for OId Snowmass.
The moratorium enacted yesterday is set to last for just two months. It can be extended with another vote of the commissioners, however.
The ordinance authorizing the moratorium cites a state law that requires land-use plans for Pitkin County to be in place by the beginning of next year as the primary reason for the development ban.
“We really do not know what the exact details should be for zoning, density and intensity of development in this area,” Commissioner Jack Hatfield said.
Most neighborhoods in the county either have master plans in place or are in the process of developing them, so broad moratoriums on development are not contemplated elsewhere. There is a moratorium that has been in place at Redstone for about 10 months.
A source in county government indicated the moratorium was prompted by concerns that a new development application was in the works for a critical piece of property.
No new development applications will be accepted for property in the affected areas while the moratorium is in effect.
Properties with valid building permits or vested development rights are exempt, as are properties in need of improvements for the health and safety of the property owners or public. Remodels or replacement of existing structures are still allowed, and utility and airport improvements are not affected.
The moratorium area is bordered on the north by Highway 82 between Brush Creek Road and Owl Creek Road. It includes the entire Brush Creek Valley to the town limit of Snowmass Village. Brush Creek Village at the bottom of the valley is not within the moratorium area. All of the Owl Creek Caucus area is impacted by the moratorium.
“This area lies between the U.S. Forest Service land and Wildcat Ranch, which in many circumstances contains critical wildlife habitat and migratory corridors for deer and elk …,” reads the ordinance.
All four commissioners who voted for the moratorium expressed concern over the impacts future development will have on wildlife in the area.
“I think habitat and the potential for its loss is a key reason for looking at this – it’s not just about deer and elk,” said Commissioner Dorothea Farris.
The moratorium was enacted on a 4-0 vote. Commissioner Patti Clapper was not present.
The two-month duration came at the suggestion of Commissioner Shellie Roy, who was worried that anything longer would have a negative impact on the construction industry.
“There is so much uncertainty in the community, and I don’t want this to add to that uncertainty,” she said.
The number of affected property owners is relatively small. Large portions of the Owl Creek drainage are owned by just a few property owners, and much of the remaining land already has been developed. Much of the Brush Creek drainage is encumbered by conservation easements purchased over the years.
Property owned by Peter Guber, Peter Droste, Seven Star Ranch, Gerald Hines and Cozy Point East, the lot at the end of the Brush Creek Valley contemplated for a new campus for Aspen Country Day School, are now off limits for development proposals.
Droste owns much of the undeveloped ridge that separates Brush Creek from Owl Creek. He and his family also own much of Brush Creek Valley, but the property is undevelopable because of conservation easements sold over the years to Pitkin County and the town of Snowmass Village.
Droste has sued the county for three previous denials of development applications for property on the upper ridge; all three suits are still pending, according to county attorney John Ely.
Commissioner Mick Ireland said he thought it was important to enact new zoning before the county was faced with an inappropriate development application.
“One bad application can have broad and adverse impacts,” he said.
@ATD Sub heds:Snowmass/Capitol Creek moratorium
@ATD body copy: On Tuesday, the commissioners directed the community development department to draft a more limited development moratorium for the Snowmass/Capitol Creek Caucus area, commonly referred to as Old Snowmass.
The moratorium, which will likely go into effect at the end of this month, would disallow the use of transferable development rights to exceed the county’s standard maximum of 5,750 square feet. Applications for homes of 5,750 square feet and smaller would not be impacted.
The Snowmass/Capitol Creek Caucus is currently working on a master plan. Caucus members requested the moratorium after a number of developers used transferable development rights to exceed the standard size limit for homes in their neighborhood.
“It should be a short moratorium,” said Michael Kinsley, the caucus chairman. “We’re a long way through the planning process and expect to get it done in the next few months.”
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