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Woody Creekers face full agenda

Jeremy Heiman

The influential Woody Creek Caucus will meet tonight to hash out positions on three controversial development proposals in their neighborhood.

Subjects up for discussion include an 18,000-square-foot riding arena at Aspen Valley Ranch; a proposal for 34 dwellings, including 16 luxury homes and 18 affordable units, at Braun Ranch; and a yet-to-be-determined number of educational buildings and housing units proposed by Compass, to be built near the Aspen Community School campus. Compass was formerly known as the Aspen Educational Research Foundation.

The caucus makes recommendations to the county government on development projects in Woody Creek.

Ed Bastian, caucus co-moderator, said the group has partially formed positions on all the issues.

The Woody Creek Caucus’ Planning Commission, Bastian said, has recommended the H2J Riding School’s arena not be built, on the grounds that it’s a huge commercial building and it will generate too much traffic on Lower River Road.

The St. Clair Co., a real estate development firm in Newport Beach, Calif., has applied for permission to build homes at the Braun Ranch, located to the north of the Lenado road at its intersection with Lower River Road. The proposal calls for the use of transferable development rights (TDRs) from remote parcels to allow the construction of larger homes than would otherwise be allowed.

The plan calls for agricultural lands to remain as open space in the valley bottom, but the caucus, Bastian said, is “very concerned” with the size of the development, its environmental impacts and its failure to house the employees it would generate.

“It’s a matter of balancing community values with development,” Bastian said. He said although the developer had attempted to include caucus members in the development process, the Braun Ranch project does not conform to the Woody Creek Master Plan. That document calls for, among other things, preserving open space, maintaining the rural character of the neighborhood and keeping Woody Creek as a place to live for people who actually work in the community.

“We’re all concerned with employee housing,” Bastian said. “We probably supply a greater percentage of affordable housing than any other place in the county.”

One of the components the caucus likes about Compass Executive Director George Stranahan’s proposal for development at the nonprofit’s compound near the Aspen Community School is that it does include affordable housing. But the caucus hasn’t taken a firm position on the overall proposal.

“The caucus is just really beginning a constructive dialog on that issue,” Bastian said. “I’m sure there’ll be a lively discussion. The community will learn from the school and vice-versa.”

Brook LeVan, project co-director for Sustainable Settings, a Compass project, said Stranahan’s proposal includes a 1,000-square-foot greenhouse, a ceramics studio, a single-family home, a small campus center building with one meeting room, a multiunit building to house interns, and perhaps 12 affordable housing units.

LeVan said Sustainable Settings would work with the caucus to define the project. The buildings would be constructed over, perhaps, a five-year period.

Stranahan, a co-owner of The Aspen Times, is greatly respected as an elder in the Woody Creek community and a leader in the caucus, Bastian said. For that reason and because Compass is an educational, nonprofit group, its proposal won’t be treated as a typical development by the caucus.

“There are concerns about how to discuss this, because George is such an honored member of our community,” Bastian said. “But this is such a large project, we need to be careful in the way we approach it.”

“There are no selfish interests here,” he continued. “It’s a different kind of project than we’ve ever been faced with before.

“The caucus is just really beginning a constructive dialog on that issue,” Bastian said. “I’m sure there’ll be a lively discussion.”

The caucus will meet at 7:30 p.m. at the Aspen Community School, 1199 Woody Creek Road.


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