Ranch won’t be split after deal | AspenTimes.com

Ranch won’t be split after deal

Jeremy Heiman

A land deal that closed last week will prevent the 434-acre Crystal Valley Ranch from being carved up into ranchettes.

Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program and the Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit based in Boulder, put together a creative deal to minimize development and keep most of the ranch in agricultural use. The property is located south of Carbondale, about one mile south of the Garfield County line. Two parts of the ranch are separated by Thompson Creek and Highway 133.

The property, owned by Andre and Jyoti Ulrych, is legally subdivided into 11 lots, six of which have valid development rights. The organizations, having bought the land at full market price, hope to prevent most of the potential development and ensure that ranching continues to be the main use of the property.

“We didn’t want it to get butchered into these 11 parcels the Ulryches have it divided into and have a string of houses up and down 133,” said Dale Will, director of the Open Space program.

The Open Space program actually loaned $4.6 million to the Conservation Fund, which combined that money with a half-million dollars of its own to purchase the property. Instead of the six or more lots, the Conservation Fund will sell the property as two parcels and place a conservation easement on each to prevent development beyond one house on each. A conservation easement is a legal document preventing any further development and, in this case, any use of the land other than ranching.

The placement of the houses will be such that they will be inconspicuous or invisible from Highway 133, a Colorado Scenic Byway. The agricultural land would continue to be farmed under the conservation easements.

The Conservation Fund made the purchase because the bylaws of the Open Space program forbid the resale of any property purchased by the program.

Will said the agreement is flexible enough so that if the first parcel sold brings in what’s considered to be enough money, the Open Space board and the county commissioners can deny the sale of any further property and assume ownership of the remainder. Although the Conservation Fund initially gets the deed to the property, the two groups have a legal agreement that gives the county control of that sales decision.

“Where we want to end up is where we are with the Dart property in Snowmass Canyon,” Will said. That ranch property is deed restricted so that no more than two houses can be built, and the Open Space program owns an agricultural conservation easement on the land.

“Where the property is agricultural,” Will continued, “it makes a lot more sense for these properties to end up in private ownership, with a conservation easement.” The resale of the land will allow some of the Open Space money to be recycled for another project.

The Open Space and Trails program was reauthorized by Pitkin County voters in last November’s election for a period of 10 years. In discussions prior to placing reauthorization on the ballot, the county’s Financial Advisory Board advised Open Space to make an intensive effort to purchase land at the earliest opportunities, because with each passing year, land prices are increasing by an average of 12 percent.

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