Smuggler rezoning gains approval
The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners rezoned the front side of Smuggler Mountain on Wednesday to allow landowners to construct 2,500-square-foot homes on 35-acre parcels.The new “transitional residential” zoning district for the mountain, which flanks Aspen to the southeast, is meant to be a transition from the urban, lower part of the mountain to the rear part of the mountain, which is zoned rural and remote, allowing just 1,000-square-foot cabins.The cap of 2,500 square feet is 500 more than the limit recommended by the Pitkin County Planning Department. In addition, anyone who owns two 35-acre parcels and agrees not to develop one of them will be permitted to build a home as large as 3,500 square feet.The face of Smuggler Mountain had been zoned AFR-10, meaning a 5,750-square-foot home could be built on a 10-acre parcel. With a special review, a landowner could build a home of up to 15,000 square feet.The new zone applies to property on the mountain above 8,200 feet. Commissioners decided properties there that currently have vested property rights to build can do so according to the old guidelines. Land below 8,200 feet remains AFR-10.A number of attorneys representing landowners expressed concern over the new zoning during the public hearing. Brian Gonzales, a Denver-based attorney working with developers and Smuggler landowner Wilk Wilkinson called the rezoning “predatory zoning.”He said the county initially offered to purchase the land at considerably below market price and is now attempting to control development purely for aesthetic value.”We’re asking that you not pass this ordinance, but that you take your time, sit down with our client and discuss other options,” he said. Commissioner Dorothea Farris told Gonzales she felt public access, not just aesthetic value, was a major reason not to overdevelop the mountain.Commissioner Patti Clapper initially said she supported 3,500 square feet for each home at the base, but Farris said she would not support that based on county studies that show homes larger than 3,500 square feet draw increased traffic to a neighborhood. The vote to rezone was 3-0 in favor of the transitional residential zone, with Clapper, Farris and Commissioner Michael Owsley supporting the ordinance. Commissioners Mick Ireland and Jack Hatfield did not attend the meeting.Tulasi Wilkinson, a Smuggler Mountain landowner and the ex-wife of Wilk Wilkinson, also asked the commissioners to slow their decision. “I would love for Smuggler Mountain to be open space, but it has to be bought,” she said.Local attorney Ron Garfield, who said he was not representing a landowner, spoke in favor of the transitional residential zone, saying the ordinance is for “everyone who likes to walk up Smuggler, or stood on the platform and marveled at the beauty.”The face of the mountain, he said, is unique in that it’s the last piece of undeveloped land viewed from the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain. The zone is a “rational, logical, well-reasoned effort” to preserve the mountain as it is, he said.Commissioners and the county planning department made concessions for the historic Smuggler Mine, bumping the zoning line up slightly so that the mine’s 9.9 acres that are part of the National Historic Register are not included in the new zone. As a result, the mine will still be able to develop its property closest to the city of Aspen by AFR-10 standards.”We maintained building two buildings on our site – the same right we had yesterday,” said Chris Preusch, president of the Smuggler Mine Co. “We maintained our development rights, and it means that we can’t put houses where, to be honest with you, we wouldn’t put them anyway,” he said, gesturing to the steeper slopes higher on the mountainside.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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