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Wilk and city still negotiating

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Attorneys representing Aspen and Smuggler Mountain landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson met face to face for the first time Tuesday in ongoing negotiations over the purchase of Wilkinson’s property as open space.

The City Council was briefed on the issues during a closed-door meeting with attorneys for both sides yesterday afternoon.

The get-together was arranged “so we could understand each other’s position better,” said John Worcester, city attorney. Wilkinson did not participate, but was represented by a Denver attorney. The city, also, has hired outside legal representation to assist in the negotiations.

The city and Wilkinson’s representatives have been negotiating since March, when the City Council authorized Worcester to make an offer to Wilkinson for his Smuggler landholdings. The amount of the offer has not been publicly disclosed.

The talks are continuing, according to Worcester.

“The city has an outstanding offer that has not been accepted or rejected,” he said. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy to buy the mountain and establish a fair price.”

The city did obtain an appraisal of Wilkinson’s property that put its value at $8.1 million for about 136 acres comprised of old mining claims. To place an appraised value on Wilkinson’s land, a team of experts spent about two years assessing his holdings and its development potential. The contents of the appraisal also have not been made public.

There has been no discussion by the council about acquiring Wilkinson’s property through a condemnation proceeding, Worcester said.

Smuggler Mountain, rising up on Aspen’s northeast flank, is popular with winter and summer recreationists heading up the mountain or into the Hunter Creek Valley. Both city and Pitkin County officials have long identified the preservation of Smuggler as an open space priority.

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


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