Snowmass considers private road to Seven Star property |

Snowmass considers private road to Seven Star property

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Snowmass Village Town Council continued wrestling Monday night with a proposal to create two homesites on the Seven Star property, which is located on the ridge between Owl Creek Road and Brush Creek Road.

For almost 10 years, various town councils have been discussing options for the Seven Star property, which all parties agree is valuable wildlife habitat.

Last night, the current board reviewed and then tabled an ordinance that would allow a private driveway to climb up the hillside by the town’s maintenance facility on Owl Creek Road, go through town open space, and then reach two homesites on top of the ridge.

And then the Town Council went into executive session to further discuss the proposal, which includes an annexation agreement, as the Seven Star property is outside the town’s boundaries in Pitkin County.

The broad swath of land runs roughly parallel with Highline Road, which connects Owl Creek Road and Brush Creek Road on the east side of the village. The property provides critical winter habitat for deer and elk and includes several major seasonal migration routes.

The property was recently purchased by the Milvenan Family First Limited Partnership, which is a Texas limited partnership.

Joe Wells, an Aspen land-use planner, formally reviewed the project’s history last night for the Town Council, as recent informal discussions have now moved into a more official phase.

In 1994, the previous owners of the Seven Star parcel bought 450 acres of land near the entrance to Snowmass Village. The zoning on the land at the time allowed up to 45 homesites to be developed. However, Wells encouraged the owners to propose a six-unit development.

In 1995, Pitkin County purchased a portion of the property north of Brush Creek Road for $1.6 million and the owners ceded development rights for three of the six homesites.

And as part of the agreement with the county, Wells said the owners were given the direction that two homesites up on the ridge would be acceptable but that they would have to find a way to get there without coming up from the Brush Creek Road side.

That led Wells to try to get an agreement with owners in the Owl Creek Ranch subdivision to allow a driveway to be built to the ridge off of Owl Creek Road. But that effort, despite years of trying, led nowhere. Then he tried to get a road alignment through Hidden Valley off of Highline Road, but the Snowmass Village Cemetery Board nixed that option.

Now he is before the Town Council with the proposed driveway that switches back and forth up the hillside above the maintenance facility. Those switchbacks require long and high retaining walls that could be a hindrance to elk and deer trying to move through the area.

“I don’t like this road at all,” said council member Arnie Mordkin. “I’m not ready to say ‘no’ yet, but I’m not ready to say ‘yes’ yet.”

And few question that the Seven Star property is habitat better left alone.

“From a wildlife standpoint, the best thing that we could do is sterilize the entire area,” said Rick Thompson, the wildlife consultant for the property owners.

So why is the Snowmass Village Town Council working so diligently on drafting an agreement that would allow the driveway and the two homesites to be created – even though the property is not inside its boundaries?

Because it fears the alternatives could be worse.

Snowmass Village Mayor T. Michael Manchester said Monday “there is no way to have jurisdictions say ‘no’ to all development,” and he pointed out that at least if the town annexes Seven Star, it will have control over what is ultimately approved.

If the town turns down the Seven Star application – which it may – then Wells has said the owners will seek permission to build three homes in the meadows along Brush Creek valley, which Snowmass has been trying to protect from development.

“We are trying to come up with the best solution,” Manchester said.

And factoring into the town’s decision, at least to some degree, is a proposal by the Seven Star owners to give to the town a parcel of land known as “the triangle,” which is right next to the town’s rodeo grounds parcel.

That land is soon to go through a master-planning process, and if the adjoining Seven Star triangle parcel was owned by the town, it would give the town more options.

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