Homestead board faces Friday deadline
EDWARDS, Colorado – Homestead’s board of directors has until Friday to announce whether they’re in or out of an Edwards open space deal.
The county is ready to spend $3.25 million to add 160 acres of open space in Homestead.
For now, the commissioners want three things from Homestead:
• Homestead has 400 acres of dedicated open space next to the 160 acres the county wants to buy. The commissioners want some or all of Homestead’s 400 acres preserved as permanent open space with conservation easements through the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
• Homestead is being asked for $70,000. Creamery Gulch is on the other side of those 160 acres. Those homeowners are being asked for $400,000.
• The county and the Forest Service also want a trail easement through Homestead’s open space to connect to a trail that runs down through Forest Service land above Homestead.
Homestead’s seven-member board of directors is expected to make its intentions known by Friday through its attorney, said Kara Heide, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
“There are legitimate issues to be worked out,” Heide said. “Is it perfect? No. Do the pros outweigh the cons? Yes.”
Homestead’s 400 acres is dedicated open space, and has been since the 1980s when local developer Bobby Warner developed Homestead.
“That (open space designations) can be undone, and we’ve seen it happen over and over in this valley,” Heide said.
To sell and develop Homestead’s open space would onerous, but not impossible.
It would have to be approved by two-thirds of Homestead’s 850 homeowners.
“Getting 600 people to agree to that would be like herding 600 cats,” said Chris Neuswanger, a Homestead resident.
Any development would then have to be approved by Eagle County’s planning commissioners, then by the board of county commissioners.
“That’s not likely with this particular board of commissioners, but things can change,” said Tom Edwards, chairman of the county’s Open Space Advisory Committee.
He said conservation easements are the highest level of protection, and unlike some open space designations, conservation easements are forever.
Homestead’s seven-member board of directors, and not the community’s 850 property owners, will decide whether the community will to put the 400 acres of open space under conservation easement. They can do that without homeowners’ approval because, technically, the land would not be sold.
Homestead’s board members did not return interview requests.
While the county commissioners say they want Homestead involved, it’s not part of the contract to buy the 160 acres, says John Dunn, a local attorney representing the Scudder family in the deal.
“There’s nothing in the contract that has anything to do with Homestead,” Dunn said. “The contract is between the joint venture and the county about the property in question. That contract is contingent upon funding. It’s up to the county, with the assistance of the Land Trust to figure out the funding.”
“The deal with Homestead has been conceived of by the Land Trust,” Dunn said.
In a presentation about buying the 160 acres, the county says the “Property is to be used to leverage the preservation of additional Homestead open space tracts.”
But all that glitters is not gold, say some Homestead homeowners. The land above Homestead will soon be divided between the two families that own it, and various development proposals will be brought to the table, says Homestead resident Buddy Shipley.
To have a seat at that table, Homestead should hang on to some or possibly all of its open space. Give it away now and they give away their influence in those future decisions, Shipley said.
“Why would we do that? If we give away all we own we have nothing for a bargaining chip down the road,” Shipley said.
He says he disagrees with the county’s request.
“They’re using the $3.25 million for the L parcel as a carrot to beat us over the head,” Shipley said. “If you want to purchase Scudder/Webster, have a party. Just don’t reach into my wallet to do it.”
Neuswanger works in the real estate industry and says the appraisers he talks to all ask the same question, “What are you giving up?”
Those 400 acres of open space will still be open, he said.
“There’s no established market for open space,” Neuswanger said.
Lake Creek is the valley’s last undisturbed area, Heide said, the last valley without a golf course development in it.
The 160 acres, along with at least some of Homestead’s open space, would provide access to the Forest Service land above Homestead, and is a key to a land trade that would put 640 acres of state land into national forest. That exchange would mean thousands of acres of national forest and open space preserved forever above Homestead and Edwards.
“This is the linchpin to keeping Lake Creek like it is today,” Heide said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.