Pitkin County to Carbondale: Want to reconsider stand on land trade?
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Pitkin County will ask the town of Carbondale if it wants to reconsider its endorsement of the proposed land exchange involving the Sutey Ranch and federal land at the base of Mount Sopris.
Carbondale’s Town Board of Trustees voted nearly a year ago to support the swap, at the request of Western Land Group, which is facilitating the trade. Information provided to the town erroneously indicated the Bureau of Land Management acreage being sought in the trade had been identified for disposal by the agency, said Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. Will suggested the county write a letter explaining the error to Carbondale trustees “and request that they reconsider their position on this.”
County commissioners agreed Tuesday, directing Will to draft the letter. Commissioners also indicated they’d like to meet with both the Carbondale trustees and Garfield County commissioners regarding the swap, which has been under discussion for about a year.
Western Land Group last spring acknowledged the error and confirmed the BLM had not identified the acreage at the base of Sopris for disposal. Western Land Group’s clients, landowners Leslie and Abigail Wexner, are seeking 1,268 acres of BLM land abutting their property in exchange for the 520-acre Sutey Ranch, north of Carbondale. The Wexners want to fold the BLM property into their existing Two Shoes Ranch landholdings and turn the Sutey Ranch, north of Carbondale, over to the BLM.
“I think that it’s important for the town to know that 1,268 acres was not on the table for disposal,” Will said.
Carbondale Mayor Michael Hassig could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Various entities have endorsed the swap, including the Town of Carbondale and Garfield County, but Pitkin County has resisted, and recently proposed an alternative that would create the Potato Bill Creek Open Space at the base of Sopris to preserve public access to the north flank of the mountain. The Wexners have rejected the idea.
Much has changed since the swap was originally proposed, commissioners noted. They indicated they’d like to meet with the elected officials of Carbondale and Garfield County, and present Pitkin County’s alternative plan, if they’d like to hear about it.
“I think it’s time for us, now, to be a little more proactive,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield.
Early support for the trade by various governments and other groups may have been premature, said Commissioner George Newman.
Proponents of the trade intend to seek congressional approval of the deal – a process that has circumvented the usual process the BLM would undertake before disposing of land under its purview, according to Will.
The county doesn’t even know if the BLM wants the trade to go forward, Commissioner Patti Clapper lamented.
“I would suggest we try to engage them in this conversation,” Will said.
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