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Woody Creek to incorporate?

John Colson

Should the cantankerous community known as Woody Creek one day become the city of Woody Creek?

That’s a question that a subcommittee of the Woody Creek Caucus would like to see answered in a proposed study on the possibility of incorporation.

The idea is being forwarded by the District Planning Commission, an offshoot of the full caucus membership, according to attorney and commission spokesman Dwight Shellman.

It will be presented to the full caucus at a meeting later this month, Shellman said, when the members will vote on whether to form an exploratory committee and how to approach the issue.

“The task is to identify the costs and benefits of incorporation,” Shellman said Thursday, adding, “The thing to avoid is, you don’t want to start the process to become the kind of thing you don’t want to be.”

He said the group believes it may be possible to adopt “a purer form of democracy,” without a rigid hierarchy of bureaucrats answering to elected officials, or perhaps something similar to the caucus itself.

“We want to avoid the edifice complex,” he quipped. “What we’re observing from the sidelines is watching the city of Aspen go totally nuts.” The city has become “the biggest developer in the valley” with its affordable housing program, he said, and if an outlying neighborhood opposes a particular housing proposal they are ignored.

He cited the plans to build the Burlingame and Aspen Mass affordable housing projects miles from the city boundaries, and what he called the “entitlement constituency” in the city – people who he said feel they have a right to an endless supply of subsidized housing regardless of the growth-related impacts.

Another commission member, Michael Owsley, said of the proposal, “The thing to do is give more self control to Woody Creek. The idea is not to imitate the other municipalities. The idea is to embody Woody Creek.”

He said the matter came up a few years ago briefly, but “faded” because “the commissioners suddenly became more responsive” to the Caucus’ demands.

He said that, as outlined so far, the new jurisdiction could be formed around the nucleus of the existing neighborhood, with the local fire house serving as a town hall for meetings of the governing bodies.

Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland, who was present for the discussion, said the county would not actively oppose the move to incorporate. But he suggested it is not necessarily in the neighborhood’s best interest.

“It’s not efficient, it’s not cheap, it’s not necessarily the best way to do things,” he said.

Instead, he said, Woody Creek should do as the Fryingpan River Caucus recently did and establish its own zoning categories for the implementation of its land use master plan.

He also worried that if Woody Creek incorporates, it could “touch off an annexation war” with neighboring jurisdictions.


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