Wilk, county edging toward compromise over Smuggler
Compromise between Smuggler Mountain property owner Wilk Wilkinson and the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners just might be in the air.
The commissioners and Wilkinson agreed yesterday that rather than continue fighting over development on the mountain and ownership of the road that snakes up its face, they should look for middle ground. Both sides agreed to include the city and the county Open Space and Trails Board in talks to preserve the road and allow Wilkinson some development.
“I’m not interested in going backward,” Wilkinson said. “I’m interested in going forward and establish a dialogue with the county about developing my property and preserving my property rights.”
Ironically, the conciliatory words came at the end of a two-hour takings hearing at which Wilkinson accused the county of stealing his property through a series of decisions about public access and maintenance of the road.
“I don’t think you’d stand for it if I walked into your house and took half of your things. That’s what you are doing to me by taking this road,” Wilkinson said.
The dispute dates back to 1987, shortly after Wilkinson took control of the property and began making plans to develop it. In yesterday’s hearing he charged that the county’s continued dealings with the road amounted to a takings, where government action strips a parcel of all or most of its value.
Smuggler Mountain Road has long been one of the most popular recreational sites in the area, primarily because of its proximity to town. It is used by hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and, until recently, dog owners.
Wilkinson filed the takings claim after he made improvements to a section of the road by widening it into his own land and then fell into a dispute with the county over ownership of the new, wider road. He also contended that the county’s duplicitous claims on the upper portion of the road amount to a takings, because while the county refuses to take ownership of that section of road, it insists that Wilkinson keep it open to the public.
At the end of the hearing, three commissioners – Dorothea Farris, Shellie Harper and Leslie Lamont – agreed that the best solution is to complete the yet-unfinished land-use application for Smuggler. They also promised to look into ways all interested parties could meet to sort the issue out before it ends up in court again.
The county attorney put up no defense against Wilkinson’s charges, simply recommending the board deny his takings claim. The commissioners have 15 days to decide whether a takings has occurred.
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