Cable magnate proposes public-private land swap | VailDaily.com
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Cable magnate proposes public-private land swap

Cliff Thompson

Edwards’ Robert Levine, has arranged to give the U.S. Forest Service 301 acres of land exchange for 119 acres along the Baryetta Cabins Trail, adjacent to his 35,000-square-foot home.

Levine, co-founder of Cabletron, is a pioneer computer-networking magnate noted by Forbes magazine. Both the Forest Service and proponents of the proposed saw say the deal is a winner.

“It’s really working out as a fair deal for him and a great deal for us,” said Forest Service Lands staffer Howard Kahlow. “He’s (Levine) digging deep to pay costs for doing the environmental assessment and the cultural, biological and title work, too. He’s getting what he wants, but having to pay dearly for it. The public is coming out ahead.”

“It presents an enormous benefit to the Forest Service and the public,” added Levine’s attorney, John Dunn. “The real neat bonus is he facilitated acquiring Independence Pass mining claims by the Aspen Valley Land Trust that will go to the Forest Service as part of the exchange.”

“Bob Levine is exceptionaly easy to deal with,” said Adam Poe of Western Land Group which facilitated the exchange. “What he wants to do makes all the sense in the world. He was more than willing to work with the Aspen Valley Land Trust on the Independence townsite protection plan. “

The Forest Service looks to acquire landlocked private land within National Forest boundaries. Landlocked parcels are problematic for the agency because they can be developed and the Forest Service must provide reasonable access to the parcels.

In this deal, several landlocked parcels would become public land while a fringe block of public land along West Lake Creek, on the edge of the White River National Forest, would become Levine’s property.

The year-long deal was cobbled together by Western Land Group, which pulled the disparate elements into a cohesive package. If it passes muster during public review sessions, the deal could be consummated in the late summer or early autumn, Kahlow said.

So far, an appraisal of the properties have not been made, Kahlow said, so the dollar figures aren’t available. But the Forest Service will consider land trades on a value-for-value basis.

Cash cannot total more than 25 percent of the value of a land deal.

“The West Lake Creek parcel is similar in size, value and attributes to the Card Creek parcel,” Kahlow said.

Following are the lands involved in the trade:

– In Edwards, a 122-acre parcel at Card Creek, about a mile from the Baryetta Cabins trailhead, would be exchanged for the 119 acres that Levine wants to add to his property.

– Public access to the forest along the Baryetta Cabin Trail would be maintained. On top of that, a parking area would be developed at the trailhead.

– A 31-acre inholding at Pitkin Lake, in the Eagles Nest Wilderness northeast of Vail at the Eagle/Summit County line, would become Forest Service property.

– 148 acres of mining claims strung along the Independence Pass Road would be protected from development under a conservation easement administered by Pitkin County and the Aspen Valley Land Trust.

Levine loaned the land trust money both to remove mine tailings that were impacting water quality in the Roaring Fork River, as well as a conservation easement. The mineral rights for the properties will also be removed, Kahlow said.

Property exchanges can sometimes generate enough controversy that they don’t happen. In the late-’80s, Magnus Lindholm, owner of the Village at Avon, proposed swapping land near Avon to consolidate some holdings. The public outcry forced him to abandon the proposal.

Last year, a huge land swap involving a total of nearly 1,200 acres of land in several parcels along Brush Creek, south of Eagle, as well as land near Eagle-Vail and west of Avon, was proposed and is still in the works. It has not yet been consummated. A portion of that land in west Avon is being developed for employee housing by Vail Resorts.

Comments on this land swap should be sent by Jan. 20 to: Forest Supervisor, White River National Forest, PO Box 948, Glenwood Springs, CO, 81602.

For more information about the proposed swaps, call Howard Kahlow at 970-827-5180.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.


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