Pitkin County takes up plan to protect artifacts
October 20, 2012
ASPEN – A plan to compensate a pair of midvalley landowners in return for the conservation of a site where prehistoric stone artifacts dating back thousands of years litter the ground will go to Pitkin County commissioners Wednesday.
Commissioners first began wrestling with what to do about the property in May, when owners David Brown and Jody Anthes asked the county to declare the site constrained – undevelopable or severely restricted under the county’s land-use code – and to issue two transferable development rights, or TDRs, that they could sell to offset the money they invested in the parcel. A spot for a home on the parcel was approved in 1999, but no development would occur under the conservation plan.
County staffers initially recommended the TDR request be denied and then suggested commissioners grant just one. Meanwhile, commissioners called for a plan to protect the historic resources on the property. Since then, commissioners have toured the site, as have representatives of the Archaeologist of Colorado and the nonprofit Archaeological Conservancy.
The conservancy has drafted a proposed management plan for what has been dubbed the Brown Archaic Archaeological Preserve. It suggests the area be enclosed within a five-strand, barbed-wire fence with locked gates and that the area be routinely checked for trespassing or unauthorized disturbance.
The plan also suggests a management committee be formed and that a land manager be appointed to oversee the property’s use. The plan outlines procedures for conducting research and educational programs at the site, and excavation of artifacts, if such work occurs.
A conservation easement on the 43-acre property would be held jointly by the county Open Space and Trails program and the Archaeological Conservancy, and the parcel would be placed on the county’s Historic Register. In addition, the state has determined the site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
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Purchase of the conservation easement with open-space funds was discussed, according to Dale Will, county director of Open Space and Trails, but the program’s charter doesn’t specifically embrace archaeological conservation, he said.
“This one, the board just felt was too much of a stretch,” Will said.
Instead, the property’s owners will agree to extinguish development rights on the property in exchange for TDRs that can sold to buyers seeking additional development rights elsewhere. One can, for example, gain residential square footage beyond what is otherwise allowed by zoning with the purchase of one or more TDRs. This year, TDR sales have ranged from $115,000 to $150,000, according to the county’s Community Development Department.
Although the parcel to be conserved totals 43 acres, a survey of the surface revealed artifacts on 4 to 5 acres.
Many of the tools and fragments are made from material not immediately available and may have come from hundreds of miles away, noted the Archeological Conservancy.
“The site may represent the remains of a village or a seasonal campsite used successively over thousands of years,” the conservancy reported.
Experts believe the site was used from a span of about 500 to 8,000 years ago.