Pitco to downzone Smuggler?
Smuggler Mountain landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson charged Pitkin County with trying to take his property after failing to buy it, when county commissioners made the first move Wednesday to rezone the face of the mountain above Aspen.”What you’re doing is downzoning the property without my consent and without a real rationale,” Wilkinson said. “I don’t want to go into litigation with you, but you’re forcing me in that direction.”Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a new low-intensity, transitional zoning for the face of Smuggler Mountain, which would limit homes to 2,000 or 3,000 square feet, depending on the size of the parcel. Several landowners would be affected, but Wilkinson owns a good deal of the property in the proposed zone, which extends down from Smuggler Mountain Road as it cuts up the ridge above the Smuggler platform.Commissioners stalemated on a separate proposal to rezone the property above that road as Rural and Remote – a backcountry zoning that only allows 1,000-square-foot cabins. Some of Wilkinson’s land would be affected by that move, as well.County staffers are expected to return to the commissioners with the Rural and Remote proposal. Commissioners indicated they also had concerns about the transitional zoning – referred to as TR, or transitional residential – but approved it on first reading in order to move it forward. A second reading and public hearing are scheduled Oct. 27.Currently, the Smuggler lands eyed for both rezonings are currently zoned AFR-10, allowing homes of up to 15,000 square feet on lots of at least 10 acres, according to Cindy Houben, director of the county’s community development department. Development of a property of less than 10 acres would also be allowed, she said.Several commissioners indicated they’d rather see modest homes on the face of Smuggler than monster ones, if it is to be developed. Several homes in the 8,000-square-foot range have already been built on Smuggler and a development application has been submitted for another home higher up Smuggler Mountain Road than what is now the uppermost house. That application would be exempt from the downzoning.There are 14 potential homesites on the face of the mountain, Houben said.”I don’t have a problem with some 3,000- and 2,000-square-foot homes up there,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.”I do not want to see that road become a service road for huge houses and all the traffic they generate,” agreed Commissioner Mick Ireland. “I think that road should not become like Red Mountain Road.”The lower half of Red Mountain, on Aspen’s north side, is dotted with huge homes, while Smuggler, on the town’s northeast flank, remains relatively undeveloped.The city of Aspen had been negotiating to acquire Wilkinson’s approximately 136 acres as open space, but broke off talks in June because the two sides were too far apart. The county was to partner with the city in the purchase.Wilkinson expressed interest yesterday in working out an open-space deal, but charged the county with trying to take his land now that local government has failed to buy it and the state Legislature has taken away the city’s ability to condemn it.”You want more than we’re willing to spend, is what it comes down to,” responded Commissioner Dorothea Farris.”What you’re saying is, what we see on Red Mountain should be allowed to continue on Smuggler Mountain,” Farris told Wilkinson after he urged the county to maintain the AFR-10 zoning on his land.The proposed Rural and Remote zoning was also eyed for areas on Aspen Mountain, including the land outside the ski area alongside the Ruthie’s side of the mountain and extending down toward the Castle Creek Valley. Two individuals with interest in parcels there objected to the downzoning from AFR-10 to Rural and Remote.The county has already zoned land on the backside of Aspen Mountain as Rural and Remote.Several private parcels along Express Creek Road in the upper Castle Creek Valley were also pegged for Rural and Remote by the proposal.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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