Wilk to list Smuggler property | AspenTimes.com

Wilk to list Smuggler property

Janet Urquhart

Smuggler Mountain landowner George “Wilk” Wilkinson has agreed to list his property for sale for $15 million, which may spark a renewed push from local governments to acquire the holdings as open space.

Wilkinson owns 170 acres on the mountain and is willing to sell almost all of it, according to Frias Properties broker Shellie Roy. He has signed a contract to list the collection of mining claims with Roy and Frias broker Debra Goldstein.

“My goal is to sell it to the city and the county. That has been my wish for a very long time,” said Roy, a former two-term Pitkin County commissioner who said she helped try to strike an open-space deal with Wilkinson when she represented the county.

If the property isn’t purchased as open space, it will be put on the market, Roy said.

Wilkinson has long butted heads with the county in his attempts to develop the land, which the county recently downzoned. Past county’s efforts to acquire it as open space have also failed.

More recently, the city took the lead in an attempt to negotiate the purchase of Wilkinson’s holdings, ultimately offering $12 million last year for about 136 acres. A 2003 appraisal paid for by the city placed the value at $8.1 million.

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Wilkinson countered with an offer to sell some of his land to the city and county for $21 million, but retain a home site. The City Council responded by ending negotiations.

“Wilk kept coming into my office, bugging me, bugging Deb. I said, ‘OK, Wilk, if you’re serious, put it in writing. Put it in a listing contract,’ ” Roy said. “He did it. I think he’s finally ready to sell.”

Wilkinson could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The listing contract calls for the sale of about 140 acres, the conservation of another 30 acres and the designation of a lot low on the mountain where he can build a house, according to Roy.

While Wilkinson has optioned his holdings to other prospective buyers, clouding his title to the mining claims, those with liens on the property have all reached terms that allow the sale of the property, Roy said.

The Aspen City Council was briefed on the latest development behind closed doors at the end of its meeting Monday night, confirmed John Worcester, city attorney.

“We discussed Wilk’s situation and the fact that he listed it, yes,” Worcester said.

Roy had plans to meet with both Worcester and Dale Will, director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, Tuesday and intends to meet with the city’s Open Space Board, as well.

Will said he will discuss Smuggler with the county’s Open Space and Trails Board next week. “We’ll see where we go from there,” said Will, praising the latest deal as encouraging.

In the past, Wilkinson has wanted to retain the mineral rights on the property or some development potential on the land. This deal differs in that everything would be preserved except a lot on the lower section of the mountain, Will noted.

“At least from a conservation perspective, it’s the best offer I’ve seen from Wilk,” Will said.

“He has really moved to very realistic positions on everything ” and generous positions,” Roy said.

Smuggler has long been an open space priority for local governments. The mountain, which rises up on Aspen’s northeast flank, is popular with winter and summer recreationists heading up the mountain or into Hunter Creek Valley. Though development has crept up its lower slopes, the upper portion of the mountain is free of homes. The Benedict Huts, part of the 10th Mountain Division hut system, are located on public land atop Smuggler.

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