Board of Adjustment dismissive over dissent on Celestial
My family and I have lived in Maroon Creek for more than 40 years. On Sept. 6, the Pitkin County Board of Adjustment held a hearing to consider an application to obtain several variances requested by a property owner in Maroon Creek called Celestial Land Co. At the hearing the board approved Celestial’s application. A group of Maroon Creek owners have joined together to form the Maroon Creek Caucus to appeal the approval of the application. I believe it is important for the community to be aware of certain issues concerning the process and impacts of the application.
With regard to the process, I attended the Sept. 6 hearing. I was surprised by the board’s rude, unprofessional, disparaging and dismissive conduct at the hearing. First, it was clear that the board had a predetermined decision to approve the application. In fact, several board members appeared to actively advocate for the approval of the application. Second, the board was rude to and dismissive of those in attendance who expressed concerns and opposition to the application. Members of the board made comments such as “that’s irrelevant” when presented with evidence from application opponents and repeatedly cut off their attempt to make their points. Third, in violation of county land-use procedure, the board allowed Celestial to submit documents one day prior to the hearing without giving the public (and the board itself for that matter) ample opportunity to review and consider the information. Finally, it should be noted that Celestial has twice allowed its approved permits to lapse. It is now requesting a third set of permits from the county. At some point it should be appropriate to weigh the amount of county time and resources Celestial is wasting when considering yet a third application. The unprofessional, rude and dismissive conduct of the board coupled with the procedural irregularities surrounding the hearing and application approval should be of concern to all of us.
With regard to the substance of the application, Celestial requested variances to build a residence squarely in the middle of an avalanche zone. The reason for this is to obtain better views. Notwithstanding the dangers inherent in building a residence in an avalanche zone (which is Celestial’s problem, in order to build the structure Celestial must build large concrete retaining walls to mitigate avalanche danger. These walls will create a large, visible scar on the hillside for all to see. This scar will be out of character with the Maroon Creek Valley and would detrimentally impact the multitude of tourists who visit the Maroon Bells. The Benefit to Celestial compared to the negative impacts to the rest of us are disproportionate. Out land-use code exists to prevent these types of results from applicants who request variances for their property.
Finally, and perhaps least important to everyone else but very important to me, the proposed avalanche mitigation structure will cause flood and other damage to my property upstream on the Willow Creek Ditch due to the resulting change in the avalanche and debris flow from this structure. And I don’t understand why I have to suffer form this result given the procedural and substantive issues surrounding Celestial’s variance requests. I don’t know if Celestial conducted any studies about the impacts of the alternate debris resulting form their structure. It’s not clear from the record that any such studies were done. What is clear is that nobody has shared such information with me.
Our community should not tolerate a rude, dismissive, biased BOA and our land-use code exists to prevent that which Celestial has requested in this application. Interested parties should read our appeal as well as that of the Maroon Creek Caucus. In addition, they should attend the BOCC hearing on April 16.
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Kudos to Laurine Lasselle for her well-written, well-researched article interpreting the data from the 2020 census (“2020 census data highlights relationship among resort communities, downvalley locales,” Aspen Journalism).