Plans for Child property in limbo
August 29, 2002
The A Team of land-use consultants and attorneys inadvertently forced the Pitkin County commissioners to postpone action on a plan to conserve nearly 1,500 acres of prime habitat in Old Snowmass.
The county’s top land-use consultants and attorneys showed up in force yesterday to comment on a proposal to revise the county’s wildlife and geologic hazard review process by simplifying the regulations and extending their reach.
After two and a half hours of debate with the likes of Gideon Kaufman, Glenn Horn, Mitch Haas, Brooke Peterson and Steve Whipple, the commissioners came out 3-2 against a motion to adopt the new rules. The amendment fell because Jack Hatfield, Shellie Roy and Patti Clapper agreed some lot owners could be unfairly affected.
One big lot was immediately affected by the vote, however. An application by Bob Child and his six children to create one 35-acre lot for each family member and permanently conserve the rest of their 1,506-acre ranch will have to wait at least two weeks for approval while the county sorts out how ? and whether ? to amend its wildfire regulations.
If the amendment proposed yesterday had passed, it would have eliminated the prohibition against building homes in areas that have severe wildfire hazards, such as hillsides covered with scrub oak and other highly flammable vegetation, making it easier to clear brush and scrub oak and build in areas deemed “severe” wildfire hazard zones.
The amendment would have also codified a recent change in county policy. Earlier this summer, the county decided to begin applying wildfire and other hazard regulations to all lots ? developed and undeveloped ? in subdivisions that were created in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Until now, developments at such lots were exempt from the so-called 1041 hazard review process.
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Two of the three commissioners who voted against the amendment, Clapper and Roy, indicated they would reconsider the amendment to the so-called 1041 hazard regulations once it was rewritten to include suggestions made by the audience.
Nevertheless, the vote had the unintended consequence of making it impossible for the commissioners to act on the Child application.
The Child family, which has owned the Capitol Creek Ranch since the early 1960s, is asking for permission to create seven 35-acre lots near Capitol Creek Road, including one in an area that is fully encumbered by wildfire hazards.
That seventh lot ? on a site named Nose Bleed Hill for its challenging Nordic ski terrain ? proved to be the sticking point, because county regulations currently prohibit all development in wildfire areas. Legally, the commissioners could not vote to approve an application that contains a lot fully encumbered by severe wildfire hazards.
“The dilemma is that this application before you right now is the best you will see on this property, or on just about any other property,” county attorney John Ely said as he discussed the application last night. “It falls in the cross hairs of a code provision that does not serve the county’s interests any more, but has yet to be amended.”
Steve Child, who lives on and works the ranch with his wife and children, said a delay may work out for the best, because he is in the midst of settling lot and fence line issues with his neighbors.
If the Child application is ever approved, the family plans to enter into a $3 million agreement with the county Open Space and Trails program and the Boulder-based Conservation Fund to place a conservation easement over the entire 1,506 acres. That deal cannot be completed, however, unless the commissioners agree to the application.
If the wildfire regulations are not amended, the Childs will be required to come up with a different location than Nose Bleed Hill for the seventh lot. Both the wildfire regulations and the Child application are scheduled for reconsideration on Sept. 11.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is email@example.com]