Eagle County open space deal seeks $4.35M
Ryan Summerlin April 9, 2009
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The Eagle Valley Land Trust wants to keep 514 acres of a piece of property known as the Colorado River Ranch from being developed.
The roughly 1,000-acre parcel ” which is home to a working ranch ” is located 12 miles north of Dotsero on the Colorado River Road and is owned by a group called the River Ranch LLC.
The Land Trust, a group dedicated to preserving open land in the valley, has partnered with the owners to try and buy the development rights to the land and is requesting $3 million of the county’s open space money be used to purchase the conservation easement.
“We’re constantly looking for partners and property owners,” said Cindy Cohagen, executive director of the Land Trust.
The spot the Land Trust wants to preserve is valued at $13.25 million. Without development rights, the land is worth $8.9 million, according to the most recent appraisal of the property. The difference of about $4.35 million is the cost of the easement.
“Once upon a time it was approved for a golf course and gated community,” Cohagen said. “That’s fallen through and it’s now a working ranch and the owners want to keep it a working ranch.”
The $3 million of county open space money would pay for about 70 percent of the easement. The rest would funded through a combination of money from grants and the owners.
The Eagle County Open Space Advisory Committee will meet on Monday to decide whether to recommend whether $3 million should be spent on the purchase. The county commissioners would make the final decision on whether to pay for the easement.
In 2001, the commissioners approved a development plan for 200 acres of the ranch that included an 18-hole golf course, a clubhouse, a children’s pavilion and a fire station with two bays and housing for four employees.
The preliminary approval was good for five years. The owners asked for an extension in 2006, but the request was denied by the commissioners. No other development applications for the property have been submitted.
Any application for open space money has to meet a list of six criteria approved by county voters in 2002 to be eligible for funding. The open space fund is made up of a portion of property tax money.
The list ranks the value of things like the scenic views, agricultural history and access to public lands and recreation activities.
“Whenever a project comes in we have to look at it within those criteria,” said Kris Aoki, a county planner.
Part of the application includes plans for a 2-acre public parking area that would make for easier access to Bureau of Land Management land next to the ranch, Aoki said. The public land is used a lot by hunters, she said.
“People park on the Colorado River Road and block the road,” Aoki said. “This is offering public access through the ranch to public property where it’s been difficult to get to.”
On Monday, the open space group could either approve the request, table it or deny it.
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or email@example.com.