Split decision in millionaires’ fight for Aspen-area home | AspenTimes.com

Split decision in millionaires’ fight for Aspen-area home

ASPEN – A heavyweight land-use fight between neighbors in one of Aspen’s priciest enclaves ended in a split decision Thursday.

Celestial Land Co. will be allowed to build a house in the “activity envelope” it proposed in Maroon Creek Valley, but it will have to settle for a mansion of only 8,250 square feet, rather than the 15,000 square feet sought. That’s according to a ruling by Jim True, Pitkin County land-use hearing officer.

Celestial has already been awarded one transferable development right to boost the size of the house above the standard 5,750 square feet allowed by the county. True ruled the application doesn’t qualify under the current land-use code for three additional transferable development rights, which would boost the home’s allowable size to 15,000 square feet. It doesn’t qualify because of three reasons related to compatibility to the surrounding area.

Celestial has been seeking approval for years for a project that its application dubs The Eagle’s Nest. The company’s partners bought a portion of the T Lazy 7 Ranch from the Deane family in 2006 for nearly $6 million. Celestial flipped all of the land, except a 35-acre parcel. It wanted to build the 15,000-square-foot home, along with a caretaker house, two sheds and a “bathing facility,” about a half-mile from T Lazy 7.

The proposal has pitted millionaire versus millionaire. Celestial’s ownership included mining magnate Robert Friedland, a major shareholder in a company that operated the controversial Summitville Mine in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains in the 1980s.

Friedland agreed to contribute $20.7 million in the cleanup of the closed mine and surrounding area, although he continues to dispute his level of responsibility. Environmentalists labeled him “Toxic Bob” for his alleged role.

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A local representative for Celestial claimed last year that Friedland sold his ownership interest, although no documentation was produced and no transfer of a deed involving Celestial is reflected in the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s office.

Opponents of Celestial’s plan include Tom and Margot Pritzker, whose family owns the Hyatt hotel chain. They claim Celestial’s proposed house is in a hazard area where debris has spilled down a gulch multiple times over the years. They contend construction at the proposed site could alter the flow of debris and affect their property. At least four other property owners in the area have expressed similar concerns.

True’s ruling to allow a 8,250-square-foot house would require less engineering to handle the debris flows and, theoretically, wouldn’t affect the neighboring property as much.

It’s uncertain yet if Celestial will appeal the decision to allow the larger house, or if the neighbors will appeal the decision to allow any construction at the site. Any appeal would be heard by the Pitkin County commissioners.

scondon@aspentimes.com