Will road put Droste out of reach? | AspenTimes.com

Will road put Droste out of reach?

Sarah S. Chung

Local officials who hope to preserve the Droste property outside Snowmass Village may have to settle for the most visible part of it.

Landowner Peter Droste told The Aspen Times yesterday that he believes he can build a road to the upper reaches of his property, opening more of the land to development and putting the price of acquiring it as open space out of reach for local governments.

According to Droste, an engineering study has identified a route for a road to the top of the property that would not violate county slope restrictions. Opening up the land above the valley floor to development could virtually triple the value of the Droste family’s land holdings to $32 million, he said.

The Droste ranch occupies 940 acres in and above the Brush Creek Valley near the entrance to Snowmass Village.

Droste said the road would reach grades of no more than 12 percent – well within what’s allowed by county code, which prohibits road grades of more than 30 percent.

According to Droste, a recently completed appraisal of the land took into account just the development potential on the valley floor and hillsides and set the value at $12 million for all the acreage. Opening up the higher elevations would substantially hike that figure, he contends.

“In dollars, that adds $20 million to the value of the property,” Droste said. “Essentially, the $12 million appraisal was based on the assumption that there was no access to the top. Now that’s out the window.”

Given the expanded development potential Droste believes exists, he said the scenario that may make the most sense is to sell a $12 million conservation easement to preserve the valley and develop the upper reaches with 10 35-acre homesteads.

This way, Droste said, everybody gives a little in order to get what they want. And the open space at the entrance to town would be preserved – at a price that the town, Pitkin County and environmental groups could afford.

The reality is that a road changes everything.

The open space push could come up with $12 million, including $7.1 million from a Snowmass Village bond issue, $1 million from the county Open Space and Trails Board and $1 million from the state Division of Wildlife. A $3 million grant application to Great Outdoors Colorado is pending.

According to Droste both the homesteads and the road would be essentially hidden from the view corridors off Brush Creek Road.

“It wouldn’t be like Red Mountain,” Droste said. “Only about a quarter-mile of the road would be visible, only if you stood still at just the right angle. There may be some visible roof lines but it wouldn’t blemish the view – not the way putting 35-acres lots dotted across the valley certainly would.”

Bill Hegberg, spokesman for joint effort to acquire the property, declined to comment yesterday.

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