Pitkin County OKs Droste project | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County OKs Droste project

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The development of nine homes in the hills above the Brush Creek Valley received the Pitkin County commissioners’ final, though reluctant, approval Wednesday.

Even as the Droste family’s Brush Creek Ranch project gained the hard-won go-ahead, commissioners urged the Drostes to pursue options to conserve the sensitive land as open space or seek a buyer who would consolidate lots and limit construction to fewer homes.

“Let’s keep this open,” agreed Peter Droste.

Commissioners and the Drostes spent much of Wednesday’s review wordsmithing the resolution approving the development, which commissioners endorsed on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Jack Hatfield dissenting. The major issues were settled earlier this month.

A compromise already negotiated between the two sides eliminated one of 10 proposed lots, while other homesites were relocated to minimize their impact on the elk that winter in the area or migrate through it. Eight homes of up to 10,000 square feet and one of no more than 8,250 square feet were approved. They will be located north of the ridgeline that separates the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys outside of Snowmass Village, all but invisible from the valleys below.

A separate, 10th lot that is part of the development is located on the valley floor, encompassing a collection of ranch buildings that already exist.

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Hatfield said he wanted four homes eliminated from the plan out of wildlife concerns, but would have settled for two. “I just can’t get there with one,” he said.

Nonetheless, he complimented the Drostes for designs that will hide the homes from view, in some cases through significant excavation to conceal the structures in the hilly terrain.

“I have been somewhat astounded by the lack of public interest and public comment in this process,” said Commissioner Rachel Richards. “I think people will be surprised later … they won’t see the homes – you’ve done a good job with that – but they’ll see the lights at night.

“This is not going to be an easy vote for me to cast,” Richards said, expressing regret that the land could not be conserved, though 1,176 acres surrounding it, including much of the Droste acreage, is protected through either conservation easements or open space purchases.

Commissioner George Newman reiterated his belief that one or two homesites would be more valuable than nine lots, given the uniqueness of the property, and have less impact on wildlife.

Peter Droste said he approached county Open Space and Trails director Dale Will about purchasing some of the lots.

“He said he didn’t think it was the best use of his money,” Droste said.

Droste said he wasn’t sure whether construction of the infrastructure for the development would begin next spring. The lots are already listed for sale, starting at $3.3 million.

Restrictions commissioners placed on the property to protect wildlife include a prohibition on all wintertime construction work, limiting winter recreation to the activity area surrounding the homes, and banning dogs and a horse corral from the development.

janet@aspentimes.com