Pitkin County to buy Droste property | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County to buy Droste property

Madeleine Osberger
Snowmass Village correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesGazing at the views from the ridgeline on the Droste property a year ago are, from left, Pitkin County commissioners Rachel Richards and Patti Kay-Clapper, and Droste planning consultant Francis Krizmanich.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Pitkin County is under contract to buy the expansive 742-acre Droste property – a key recreation parcel and wildlife corridor that spans the ridgeline between Aspen and Snowmass Village – for $18 million.

“This is a really exciting opportunity that has been presented to us [in the last few weeks],” said George Newman, chair of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners.

“This is one of the premier open spaces I’ve ever been on,” said Jeff Woods, manager of parks and recreation for the city of Aspen, who said he recently walked the ridgeline above the Brush Creek Valley with two Aspen City Councilmen and City Manager Steve Barwick. Woods enthused about the future trail connections and equestrian access that for years have been blocked by landowners.

The tract, which many incorrectly assume is within the town of Snowmass Village, is actually located in unincorporated Pitkin County. Still, the verdant valley remains to some the unofficial entrance to Snowmass, a point that was driven home by county staffers during Monday’s regular meeting of the Snowmass Village Town Council.

It was there that Town Council committed to contributing $2 million to the purchase, or double what the city of Aspen has pledged to date.

The bulk of the money is anticipated to come from the county, which, through its open space fund, is committed to providing $10 million. A grant from Great Outdoors Colorado could bring up to $3.5 million; private funding could also provide $3.5 million, with the two neighboring municipalities offering the rest of the purchase price.

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The latest list price for the land, owned by Peter and Bruce Droste, was $22.5 million, according to Dale Will, director of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Program. A recent appraisal from Hunsperger and Weston Ltd. pegged the value at between $19 million and $21 million, he added.

The relationship between the Droste brothers and the county remained acrimonious for years as the landowners felt their development rights were stifled by the county and the town’s desire to protect view-planes and the wildlife migration corridor at what the family believed was a very high cost.

Then last August, after nearly five years of negotiations, the family reached a compromise with the county that would have allowed development of nine lots that could contain homes of up to 10,000 square feet. The Drostes were also granted the ability to build a nearly 3-mile road that criss-crossed its way up the steep hillside.

Then the economy interceded; Will, however, said he continued efforts to keep the channels of dialogue open with the landowners. And unlike a decade ago when Snowmass Village approached the open space board about funding for a conversation easement, this time it was Will leading the charge to ask Snowmass Village for help in preserving the entire Droste property.

“We’re talking about purchasing 742 acres, fee simple,” said Will, who added that the ridgeline property would be called the “Wapiti Ridge Mountain Park” in recognition of the elk that use the area.

The pending purchase ties together the more than 1,500 acres of open space lands between Aspen and Cozy Point, along with another 662 acres that have already been set aside in conservation easements.

On Monday, no one in council chambers doubted the magnitude of the purchase nor the value of the wildlife corridor and recreation area – despite the fact that Snowmass Village will have to ask its electorate for the money on a ballot that is already anticipated to be packed with taxation questions.

Snowmass Village also is suffering through a challenging summer that appears to contrast greatly with the relatively healthy season Aspen seems to be experiencing.

While acknowledging the current challenges in the economy, Tim McFlynn, chairman of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board, said that it “would make no sense for the city of Aspen and the town of Snowmass Village not to really stretch for a one-time opportunity.”

mosberger@snowmasssun.com

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