Bob Ward
Special to The Aspen Times

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July 12, 2013
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No solution yet to Woody Creek driveway dilemma

Pitkin County commissioners are still holding out for a last-ditch solution to prevent a massive proposed driveway from scarring a steep hillside above Woody Creek Road.

The driveway, which would access a property owned by the Stranahan family, would require a series of tiered walls that some say are unsightly and inappropriate for the semi-rural neighborhood. But Pitkin County already has determined that denying access to the parcel would constitute an illegal “taking” of private property and that the chosen driveway design is the best of six previously considered options.

When commissioners last debated the matter on June 12, they couldn’t agree to deny the family’s land-use application or deny it. So they delayed the matter for a month in the hope that neighbors could devise a solution — anything from finding a different access route across a neighboring property to pooling donations and buying the property outright.

Although a dozen or so neighbors and other interested parties showed up at Wednesday’s meeting, none came with a solution. They did lament the visual blight of the driveway, the fact that construction could disrupt a perennial spring on the hillside and the fact that the driveway and the house at its far end would displace deer, elk and other creatures that use the mesa.

“From a wildlife standpoint, it would be better if there wasn’t anything up there,” said Kevin Wright, district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Even Jim Curtis, who represents the landowners, has agreed that the massive driveway would be ugly. But after years of negotiating with neighbors and seeking alternative access routes, Curtis has grown tired. He reminded commissioners that his clients own the property and have rights.

“If some third party wants to buy this property, then they need to communicate with me,” he said.

In the end, acting partly on a request from Curtis for more time to study neighbors’ claims that other access easements exist on the property, commissioners postponed the matter until Aug. 14.

Commissioner Rachel Richards encouraged neighbors and other interested parties to form some sort of public-private partnership to purchase and preserve the parcel.

“Even though it’s accessible, even though it’s somehow developable, it’s best not to do it,” she said.

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The VailDaily Updated Jul 10, 2013 11:25PM Published Jul 15, 2013 04:48PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.