W/J lot deeds go to those who join fight
The first of hundreds of deeds to free lots on the W/J Ranch arebeing sent out this week, according to developer John Musick,who promised the lot giveaway to local workers.It is the latest maneuver in a standoff that pits Musick, presidentof W/J Ranch, Inc., against Pitkin County’s planners and electedofficials. And if Musick’s claims in a three-page letter to “AllFree Lot Recipients” are true, those leaders will soon face additionalW/J litigation on top of the lawsuit he filed last fall.Musick has been trying to develop hundreds of units of affordablehousing on the Woody Creek-area ranch, but he has met stiff oppositionfrom county leaders who think the site is all wrong for a massiveaffordable housing development. Last October, the Board of CountyCommissioners denied Musick’s application to build 778 units,and it has since rebuffed his efforts to negotiate a smaller development.But even if they don’t like Musick’s plans, the county is a longway from reaching consensus over what to do about Musick and theranch. On Feb. 9, the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission tableda staff proposal to downzone W/J under the guise of promotingresidential “clusters” along the highway. The P&Z voted 3-1 toput off a decision until the planning department revises its latestproposal, which would cut the number of affordable housing unitsallowed on the McLain Flats property from several hundred to just45.Musick’s Feb. 19 letter opens with an update on the status ofthe county’s actions, and assures lot recipients that no actionhas been taken. “During our conversations, some of you asked thatI send you your deed immediately so that you personally can suePitkin County, should this downzoning be attempted,” he wrote.Musick, who has vowed to seek an injunction against the countyif the P&Z approves a downzoning proposal, writes, “we never suspectedthat you, too, would, want to sue the county.”The deeds will be distributed only to those who said they planto sue the county, according to Musick.”Every person who has asked to receive a deed so they can fightfor themselves will receive their deeds,” Musick told The AspenTimes on Friday. Everyone else, apparently, have to wait unlessthey, too, tell Musick they plan to join the fray.Musick declined to name the people who said they would sue thecounty, or even say how many of them there are. He said that hewould contact some of those who expressed an interest in fightingthe county and ask them to call The Aspen Times, but by the closeof the work day Friday, no one had called. Until lawsuits areactually filed, there is no way of confirming his claims.”Others of you wanted to know who the `knucklehead’ was that proposedthe downzoning in the first place,” Musick wrote in his letter.”As near as I can tell, you can thank trust accountess, MarcellaUrschel Larsen, Esq., Lance Clarke, Dave Tolen, Dwight Shellman,and Mick Ireland – five of the usual suspects.” Larsen is theformer P&Z chairperson and now a county attorney, Clarke is acounty planner, Tolen is housing director, Shellman is a WoodyCreek attorney and Ireland is a county commissioner.In his letter, Musick urges those who have been promised deedsto contact “right-minded thinkers” like P&Z members Charlie Tarverand Peter Martin or County Commissioner Patti Clapper. “Believe it or not,” he writes, “there are some P&Z members whoactually support affordable housing and those individuals needyour help to resist the attacks which will be made by Marcellaand her strike force.”Musick handed out applications for free lots at W/J from his pickuptruck on election day last November. He said he had hundreds oftakers for the parcels.
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At the onset of a special legislative session designed to address the extraordinary and ever-worsening devastation wrought by COVID-19 in Colorado, many elected Republicans chose to go maskless Monday inside the Capitol.