Zoning code may squeeze Aspen ranchers



In Aspen's narrow valley, cluttered with enormous homes and virtually devoid of affordable housing, growth management seems a moot point. However, that is just what Pitkin County commissioners hope to accomplish with a bold rezoning plan. The proposed revisions of the county's land-use code would concentrate growth in already-developed areas and would cap new rural buildings at a total of 3,000 square feet - a significant adjustment where many homes are three times larger. The new code also would expand a largely untested system of tradable development rights, whereby rural landowners could sell their rights to someone in town.

"The rural landowners should be discouraged from creating sprawl," says Commissioner Mick Ireland. "This makes good fiscal sense and preserves character, environment and open space."

The few ranchers left in the valley cry foul. They feel they have done the community a service by keeping their land open instead of succumbing to subdivisions, and the new code penalizes them. Public meetings have been crowded with ranchers imploring the commissioners to revise the proposal and allow rural landowners more flexibility to develop.

"They don't see the land like we do," rancher Willie Fender says. "We're not developers, we're ranchers; flexibility is what ranchers need."

The code revision has been referred to the county planning and zoning board, which will make a recommendation to the commissioners by the end of March. If the code is adopted without significant revision, ranchers say they may sue.


Copyright © 2002 HCN and Tim Fitzgerald

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