Large land deal gets hearing in Eagle County
Eagle County, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – The commissioners could decide next week whether to spend $5.7 million of open space money to preserve Colorado River Ranch.
The commissioners have a public hearing scheduled for the request at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday.
The Eagle Valley Land Trust and the owners of the property want to put a conservation easement – which would bar the site from being developed – on the 1,017-acre piece of land 12 miles north of Dotsero.
The spot the land trust wants to preserve is valued at $13.2 million. Without development rights the land is worth $5.3 million, according to the most recent appraisal of the property. The difference of about $7.9 million is the cost of the easement.
The request has already cleared one hurdle. The county’s open space board said the application meets the county’s open space criteria but questioned whether the appraised value of the land was too high – a detail that’s likely to come up during the public hearing, Commissioner Peter Runyon said.
“There will be a lot of questions about the price and the valuation,” Runyon said.
Commissioner Sara Fisher said the board has already told the county attorney’s office to be ready to get a new appraisal in case that’s what the board decides Tuesday.
David Peterson appraised the property. He was chosen by the Colorado River Ranch LLC from a short list of appraisers vetted by the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
The commissioners have never asked for a second appraisal on piece of property in an open space applicaion, said Kris Aoki, a planner with the county. The board has asked for reviews of appraisals, she said.
Runyon said the file seems to meet the open space criteria pretty well. The criteria for a piece of land includew wildife, scenic landscapes, regional heritage, and access to streams, rivers and public lands.
There are more factors to consider, though, Runyon said, including “the bang for the buck,” and whether there are other funding partners and what other conservation options are available at the time.
“It comes down to discretion,” Runyon said. “One persons or one commissioner’s formula that they bring to the talbe might be very different than another.”
The fact that the money can only be used for open space purchases is an important point to consider, Runyon said.
“I think it’s really important to note the money can’t be spent on anything else,” he said. “We can’t say ‘let’s put it here and help the general fund or ECO Transit.'”
Fisher plans to review the application this weekend.
“This will be our first chance to hear it and hear from all the parties and really understand the particulars,” Fisher said.
Three different spots where the public could access the land are included in the easement.
A 2-acre public parking area would be put on the northern portion of the ranch to make it easier to access nearby Bureau of Land Management land. Another small parking area would be built near the southern tip of the land, allowing people to get to the Colorado River.
The owners also are working with the Eagle County Historical Society to preserve an old wooden schoolhouse on the ranch. The building could be used as an educational tool and would be accessible to the public.
The commissioners Tuesday could approve, deny or postpone the decision until a later date.
Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or email@example.com.
The Eagle Valley Land Trust and Eagle River Watershed Council program adds 1% to purchases to fund preservation and conservation.