Homestead, county approve open space pact
EAGLE, Colorado – Homestead is saying “Yes In My Backyard” to a county open space deal.
The deal is part of the commissioners’ plan to spend $3.2 million from the county’s open space fund on 160 acres of open space next to Homestead. About half the 160 acres are surrounded on three sides by Homestead neighborhoods.
Commissioner Jon Stavney said it protects Homestead from “sprawl.”
The county commissioners unanimously approved an outline for the deal to put at least 120 acres of Homestead’s open space under conservation easement. The rest of Homestead’s 400 acres of dedicated open space could also come under conservation easement in the future, the agreement says.
The deal would also provide public access to Forest Service land through Homestead’s open space for horses, hikers and mountain bikers.
The conservation easements will be administered by the Eagle County Land Trust.
A conservation easement bans development forever. Homestead’s open space could have been developed, but only if it’s approved by two-thirds of Homestead’s property owners. Then any project would have to be approved by Eagle County.
Peter Runyon, a county commissioner who lives in Homestead a couple hundreds yards from the open space, says it would be virtually impossible to sell it.
Runyon insisted that everyone in Eagle County will benefit from this, but because it’s literally in Homestead’s backyard, Homestead benefits more than anyone.
“Everyone gains from this, and Homestead gains most of all,” Runyon said. “We need to put our 50 years glasses on and try to preserve that which we value.”
Some Homestead property owners have questioned the deal, saying they’re giving up the value of the open space. In most of Eagle County, open space carries a taxable value $3,500 an acre, says Mark Chapin, Eagle County’s assessor. But its market value – what it would cost if someone bought it – would be determined by the buyer. Since a sale hinges on two-thirds of Homestead property owners approving the sale of their open space, the land’s market value is impossible to determine, Chapin says.
Homestead has owned 400 acres of dedicated open space since the 1970s, when the Edwards development was originally approved.
As part of this deal, the commissioners originally wanted all of it under a conservation easement as part of the deal.
Homestead’s board countered with 120 acres and access to a Forest Service trail through an area that hikers and others have been used for years.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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