Wilk rejects city’s offer for Smuggler | AspenTimes.com

Wilk rejects city’s offer for Smuggler

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Smuggler Mountain landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson has rejected the city’s offer to purchase his property as open space.

The city’s offer, for an undisclosed sum, was made last March. It was due to expire Saturday, but the city received word by Friday that Wilkinson had turned it down, according to John Worcester, city attorney.

“They rejected our offer, and they have not made a counteroffer,” he said.

The City Council will meet behind closed doors to discuss what it does next, said Mayor Helen Klanderud.

“The council has to decide what the next steps will be ” we could make another offer, we could condemn, we could do nothing,” she said.

The city obtained an appraisal of Wilkinson’s property that put its value at $8.1 million for about 136 acres comprised of old mining claims. The contents of the appraisal have not been made public, but it did assess the development potential of his holdings.

Talks between the two sides have centered on what could be done with the property under Pitkin County’s land-use code, according to Worcester.

“There was a lot of discussion about that,” he said.

The appraised value is merely a starting point for negotiations, observed Councilwoman Rachel Richards last week, explaining why the negotiated price for the city’s proposed purchase of the Mother Lode restaurant is higher than its appraised value.

Comparing the Mother Lode to Smuggler, she said: “It’s highly unlikely that we will ever buy that property [Smuggler] for the appraised value unless you have a willing seller and a willing buyer.”

The city could seek to acquire Wilkinson’s land through condemnation if he is not willing to sell the property. In a “friendly condemnation,” a property owner is willing to sell, but the parties are unable to agree on a price, so it is established in court.

“I don’t know if it would be friendly or not,” Worcester said.

Wilkinson has been working with other investors who may want to pursue other plans for the property, he said.

Neither Wilkinson nor his attorney could be reached for comment on Friday.

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. The Benedict Huts, part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, are located on public land atop the mountain.

Pitkin County and Aspen have long expressed a desire to preserve Wilkinson’s land as open space and prevent its development.

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

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