Pitkin County ‘red tags’ itself for zoning violation
The latest victim to get cited for a zoning violation in Pitkin County was … Pitkin County government itself.The left hand of county government issued a violation notice, better known as a red tag, to the right hand of county government earlier this month.The Public Works Department was ordered by the zoning office to stop using the refueling station near the old Emma schoolhouse.”No approvals or other documentation has been found which allows this use to continue,” the red tag said.The county’s activity was considered “vehicle and aircraft sales and service,” which is prohibited under the zoning at the Emma property.County zoning officer Joanna Schaffner issued the violation notice to her employer.”The county manager’s position is the county needs to comply with its regulations,” Schaffner said. Public works Director Brian Pettet was invited to apply for rezoning or an amendment to the land-use code that would allow the county to keep using the site to refuel and store equipment. “In the meantime, use of the facility must cease immediately,” the red tag said.The Public Works Department actually had a compelling sob story as a defense, but it didn’t bother telling it to the zoning office. The Emma site has been used as staging for county dump trucks, graders and other heavy equipment since the late 1970s or early 1980s. The property was formerly owned by Jack Gredig, a rancher and longtime county worker.Gredig sold the ranch to the Grace Church a couple of years ago. The congregation applied to Pitkin County to get a church and other facilities approved. As part of that application, a section of the property would have been carved out as a permanent home for the county’s refueling and staging of equipment.But neighbors’ complaints helped persuade the county commissioners to reject the church’s application this spring. The denial sealed the fate of the county’s only downvalley fueling facility. As a non-conforming use, the facility had to leave.”All of our staff, all of our equipment, all of our fuel is in Aspen,” said Temple Glassier, deputy public works director.So when a grader is needed on upper Fryingpan Road, more than 14 miles east of Basalt, it will make the trip from the public work’s headquarters at the Aspen Airport Business Center. When a snowplow is needed on West Sopris Creek Road next winter, it will work its way down from Aspen.The strange circumstances will have major implications on the public works department’s budget.”It’s going to kill it,” Glassier acknowledged. She’s already submitted supplemental budget requests.Glassier said leaving equipment at far-flung work sites isn’t an option. History shows that leaving equipment parked along secluded roads is an invitation for vandalism.So the county is seeking a new site for a downvalley fueling and staging area. Soaring land costs promise to make it a pricey proposition. The county has asked the governments of Eagle County and Basalt to join with it in the search for and acquisition of a midvalley site.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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