Pitkin County, Basalt pursue purchase of open space | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County, Basalt pursue purchase of open space

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

BASALT – Pitkin County and Basalt are pursuing the $1.5 million purchase of 25 acres near Basalt High School that was at one time pitched as an affordable housing site called Sopris Chase.

The parcel, bordered by the Grange family ranch, the school campus and Bureau of Land Management property on Light Hill, would be taken off the table for potential development and preserved for its agricultural value and wildlife habitat, said Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails.

The Basalt Town Council will consider appropriating $400,000 for the purchase Tuesday. Pitkin County commissioners are being asked to endorse a $1.1 million allocation from open space funding on Wednesday. The purchase is scheduled to be finalized in August.

Richard Downey and Radine Coopersmith currently own the land, now called the Downey property, Will said.

An option to purchase the property held by developer David Fiore and his partners has lapsed, according to Will. They had proposed the Sopris Chase project, which was to provide replacement housing for Fiore’s Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park in Basalt, where trailers are at risk of flooding by the Roaring Fork River.

Fiore, however, said Monday that he maintains an interest in the property and that “there are hurdles to be cleared up” if the sale is to go through.

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The Sopris Chase proposal hit a roadblock when Basalt refused to include the property within its urban growth boundary. The county, Will added, was unlikely to approve the density Fiore was proposing.

“I’ve been looking at it for years from the point of view of open space,” he said. “What a beautiful place to have a community garden, which is one of the uses we’re contemplating.”

The northern six acres of the parcel, a fertile hay field, could support gardening. The rest of the parcel, reaching up the flanks of Light Hill and abutting BLM land, is crossed by a hiking trail and provides winter range for deer and elk.

If the purchase goes through, a management plan will be jointly developed for the property, according to the county.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife wants the trail closed in the winter to protect wildlife habitat, Will noted.

Among the county’s concerns about Sopris Chase was the potential for a lot of traffic crossing the county’s Rio Grande Trail on the edge of the property, according to Will.

For Basalt, the open space purchase will accommodate the installation of a water line, connected to a planned water tank on the BLM land, to bolster water service on the south side of the town, said Town Manager Bill Kane. Coopersmith had been fighting the town’s attempt to condemn an easement for the water line.

That, however, is not the town’s key interest in the acquisition, he said.

“I think this is a terrific opportunity for the town. It completes the agricultural puzzle on the south side of Basalt,” Kane said.

The Grange ranch has already been placed in conservation.

What to do with two trailer parks in Basalt, where flooding is an issue, remains unresolved.

A proposed residential project on the Jadwin parcel, along the Roaring Fork River between the Basalt post office and the town’s wastewater treatment plant, remains an option to relocate some mobile home residents, according to Kane. Annexation of the property will be back before the Town Council in July, he said.

janet@aspentimes.com

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