Pitkin County still mulling proposed Sutey Ranch land swap
November 10, 2009
ASPEN – Pitkin County commissioners met behind closed doors Tuesday morning to discuss the Sutey Ranch land swap. The county’s attorney declined to divulge the nature of the discussion, but said afterward that commissioners gave him no specific direction.
In convening the executive session, the county cited a section of state statutes allowing them to meet out of the public eye to “receive legal advice on specific legal questions.”
Before the session, county attorney John Ely was mum on the specific legal questions that were to be the focus of the discussion.
“It involves a lot of different legal issues. I don’t want to talk about them, particularly,” he said, in response to an Aspen Times query.
Commissioners have been asked to endorse a proposed land swap that would turn 1,268 acres of Bureau of Land Management acreage on the north flank of Mount Sopris over to billionaire retailer Leslie Wexner in exchange for the 513-acre Sutey Ranch, located north of the Red Hill recreation area near Carbondale. The BLM property is in Pitkin County; the Sutey Ranch is in Garfield County.
The county’s Open Space and Trails Board last month voted unanimously to recommend commissioners reject the deal, but commissioners have not made a decision. Congress will decide whether or not to approve the swap; proponents consider local support critical.
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Commissioner George Newman had requested the commissioners meet in executive session to discuss the land trade.
“If we have an offer for Wexner and it’s similar to any land negotiation, if we were to decide to make a counter offer…is that something we could direct, John, you to do in executive session?” Newman asked Tuesday.
“Yep,” Ely responded.
“Any decision would be done in a clear public process,” said Commissioner Patti Clapper.
The land trade has been the subject of public and executive sessions convened by both commissioners and the Open Space and Trails Board. Three members of the open space board, along with program director Dale Will, were in attendance for Tuesday’s discussion.
“We don’t understand what legal matters they have to discuss in a land exchange in which they have no legal interest,” said Andy Wiessner of Western Land Group, which is helping broker the deal on Wexner’s behalf. “Every detail of this exchange has been made public.”