Snowmass turns down latest Droste proposal |

Snowmass turns down latest Droste proposal

An offer to sell Snowmass Village a conservation easement preserving 500 acres for $7.5 million garnered a thumbs down from the Town Council Monday.

But town officials will respond with a counter proposal for the Droste property within the next few days.

“The contract submitted by the Drostes we decided not to be acceptable in executive session,” said Councilman Doug Mercatoris. “The town will make a counter offer, but the specifics cannot be talked about at this time.”

Before the council adjourned to a closed session last night to discuss the Droste offer, Mayor T. Michael Manchester said the latest negotiations leave “room for guarded optimism.” But he and other council members had problems with the time frame dictated in the proposed contract, as well as the $7.5 million price tag.

One provision of the proposal that met with immediate resistance was the demand for $75,000 in earnest money from the town, to be deposited within two days. And, after Wednesday, the money would be nonrefundable.

“It says here the 14th, today is the 12th. Can you give me any reason why, philosophically, this is being shoved in our face?” Councilman Kevin Costello asked real estate broker Bob Richie, the Droste family’s representative.

Richie said he believes the Drostes are simply “anxious” to make a deal.

Councilman Jack Hatfield also balked at the $7.5 million price, considering what Pitkin County paid for a conservation easement on 99 adjacent acres. Three years ago, the county bought an easement from the Drostes for about $425,000, he noted.

“On face value, this [proposal] is a starting place … but I wouldn’t accept it at half its price,” Hatfield said.

Bill Hegberg, who has been rehired to negotiate with the Drostes on the town’s behalf, told the council that, in a preliminary estimate, an appraiser familiar with the Droste property didn’t believe the value of an easement was $7.5 million.

But Richie countered that escalating land prices account for the disparity in costs between the easement now under discussion and the one sold to the county. Richie said the 500 acres could be worth $25 million to $28 million, given its free-market development potential. He pointed out that in 1996, a 35-acre lot subdivided from the Droste ranch sold for $600,000, while another lot of the same size recently sold for $1.8 million.

Another potential sticking point for the council was a term in the Droste proposal specifying that the Town Council could not object to the development of 280 acres on the upper lands of the Droste ranch.

Landowner Peter Droste contends there is the potential to develop 24 lots on the upper part of the property.

The Droste lands encompass a large section of the unspoiled Brush Creek Valley, which provides the entranceway to Snowmass Village. The town hopes to save the valley from development, but earlier negotiations with the Drostes broke off in acrimony last spring.

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