Pitkin County, Wexners reach common ground on land swap
December 14, 2012
ASPEN – Pitkin County announced Friday it has reached agreement with proponents of the Sutey/Two Shoes Ranch land exchange.
With the agreement between county commissioners and landowners Leslie and Abigail Wexner, the county will support the land exchange currently under consideration by the Bureau of Land Management.
The proposal currently before the BLM would fold about 1,300 acres of BLM land on the flank of Mount Sopris into the Wexners’ Two Shoes Ranch, putting the federal land in private ownership, in exchange for the 557-acre Sutey Ranch, north of Carbondale and adjacent to the Red Hill Recreation Area. The BLM would also take possession of a 112-acre piece along Prince Creek Road near Carbondale that is used by mountain bikers and others to access the Crown, a popular recreation area. Finally, the BLM would receive $1.1 million to develop a management plan for the properties it acquires and for their long-term management.
Those components of the deal remain in place and under BLM review, but in addition, through the agreement with the county, the Wexners would place two parcels on their ranch, an area known as Potato Bill, under a conservation easement to protect habitat for big horn sheep, deer and elk.
In addition, the Wexners would extinguish development rights for 10 single-family homes on their property, visible in the Crystal River Valley, and move a proposed indoor riding arena from near Highway 133 to a less visible area.
Finally, the county would receive $700,000 from the Wexners to acquire property and build a one-mile trail adjacent to Prince Creek Road outside of Carbondale, taking mountain bikers off a dicey section of the road as they ride to and from the mountain biking parcel that is part of the proposed exchange with the BLM.
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The county had previously opposed the land swap, which put it at odds with other local governments and various conservation and recreation groups. The Wexners went forward without the county’s blessing, seeking approval of the land trade under the BLM’s administrative process. Negotiations between the parties resumed, however, while the BLM initiated its review.
Said County Manager Jon Peacock in a statement issued Friday: “When the public benefits agreed to with the county are combined with benefits already offered in the administrative proposal, we believe there is an overall public benefit to the Sutey/Two Shoes Land Exchange.”
The agreement will go to commissioners for initial action on Dec. 19, with a public hearing and possible approval on Jan. 8.
For more on the latest development, see Saturday’s Aspen Times.