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Telluride is poised to fight open space bill

Janet Urquhart

Telluride is apparently ready to challenge the constitutionality of new legislation that would bar the town from condemning open space along its border.

Aspen is likely to be in Telluride’s corner.

The two resort towns teamed up to hire a lobbyist to fight House Bill 1203 in the state Legislature this spring, but lawmakers approved the measure, including its controversial “Telluride amendment.”

The bill has not yet made it to Gov. Bill Owens’ desk, but Aspen fired off a letter urging him to veto the legislation immediately after its passage.

If Telluride challenges the new law in court, Aspen may file a brief in support of Telluride’s position, said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

“We have discussed it, and we probably will discuss it further,” she said.

Telluride officials reportedly met with their attorneys last week and intend to fight the amendment in court, according to a report in Monday’s Denver Post.

The amendment, retroactive to Jan. 1, prevents a government from condemning property outside its borders for open space, recreation or similar purposes without the owner’s consent. It also bars a government from contributing financially to the acquisition of property by another jurisdiction through condemnation.

Telluride has already begun condemnation proceedings in an attempt to secure a bucolic swath known as the Valley Floor at its entrance to town. The property’s owner, the San Miguel Valley Corp., is fighting the condemnation and pushed forward the Telluride amendment.

For Aspen, the bill takes away one option for acquiring private land on Smuggler Mountain as open space, though Klanderud said she is personally reluctant to condemn the property anyway.

Both Klanderud and Smuggler landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson have expressed hope that a deal can be reached. Both sides are still talking.

The city made an undisclosed offer for Wilkinson’s landholdings last year after obtaining an appraisal that placed its value at $8.1 million. A potential buyer who had an option on the property at the time turned it down, according to Wilkinson.

Price and development potential on Smuggler are both issues, according to Klanderud. Wilkinson has said any open space deal for his land will preserve a site on which he can build a house on the mountain.

“Price is certainly a major consideration,” Klanderud said. “Whatever land-use approvals that are requested could also be a sticking point.”

If condemnation emerges as the only option to preserve Wilkinson’s land as open space, HB 1203 could thwart the city’s efforts unless the Telluride amendment is overturned in court, she conceded.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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