Garfield County commissioners: Decision to deny Aspen Glen eagle protection zone removal not ‘recipe’

The view looking northeast from the Roaring Fork River Bridge in Aspen Glen shows the area where the Eagle’s Nest buffer zone has existed since development of the gated golf course and residential neighborhood began in 1993. The The wind-damaged tree where the old nest was is seen on the far right, above the river. John Stroud/post independent

Garfield County’s decision in the fall of 2021 to deny the owner of the Aspen Glen golf course a request to remove the bald eagle protection zone from waterfront lands in the upscale subdivision was not a “take county commissioners determined Monday.

On October 11, the commissioners, after a three-meeting public hearing, denied Aspen Glen Golf Co.’s request to remove the buffer zone overlay along a section of the Roaring Fork River.

The protections were put in place when Aspen Glen was approved in 1992 due to an active bald eagle nest near what is now the bridge over the Roaring Fork River on an internal road called Bald Eagle Way.

Although eagles have not hatched at this specific site since 2016 and the tree containing the historic nest blew up in 2018, the commissioners, by a vote of 2 to 0, determined that eagles are still active in the area. region and that a broader analysis of the impact on fauna would be necessary before deciding whether or not to remove the buffer zone.

Following this decision, the Aspen Glen Golf Co. sent a letter dated October 25, 2021, through its Glenwood Springs attorney, Chad Lee of the law firms Balcomb and Green, saying the denial constituted a “taking” of property rights and requesting a hearing before the commissioners to obtain a decision on this claim.

This hearing took place on Monday.

Rather than a heavy-handed attempt to try and overturn the council’s decision, Lee said Monday the landlord was simply going through the process before potentially taking legal action against the county.

That said, Lee outlined the legal reasons why the ruling denied owners of plots in the buffer zone the economic benefit of land ownership.

“We are here to defend not only the private property rights of our clients, but also other landowners in the county,” Lee said. “This decision set a dangerous precedent…and deprived the owner of reasonable use and economic return to his property.”

Lee also argued that Aspen Glen Golf Co. had gone through the nearly two-year process for the removal of the buffer zone to be considered fairly, and at no time until the commissioners’ decision was made. , a wildlife impact study was mentioned.

Because the particular parcels in question were not approved for development with the 1992 plan or in subsequent years, however, this is not a vested right, the county attorney’s office and an attorney for the property owners ‘Aspen Glen who wish to keep the buffer zone in place, said .

Assistant County Attorney Graham Jackson said the property owner had agreed to the approved planned unit development with the ownership restriction in place. Its removal is discretionary, not guaranteed, he said.

Therefore, the commissioners’ decision was not an extortion of property rights, he said.

Several Aspen Glen owners who lobbied the commissioners at public hearings last fall not to remove the buffer zone also weighed in against the revenue request.

Given that Aspen Glen Golf Co., which also owns the golf course itself, has not pursued the broader wildlife impact assessment suggested by county commissioners, it would be premature to consider fully removing the buffer zone, said resident Mark Gould Jr.

County commissioners – minus commissioner Tom Jankovsky, who declared a conflict of interest because of his wife’s property management business in Aspen Glen – stood behind their previous decision and said they would not consider it. not like a recipe.

Commissioner Mike Samson reiterated that as a property rights advocate, he struggled with the ruling last fall and again on Monday.

“What always guides me is what’s best for Garfield County,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s been any revenue here,” Samson said, noting that he doesn’t believe the plaintiff has proven that removing the buffer zone is in the best interests of residents or the county in as a whole, and did not sufficiently prove their case for its removal.

Commissioner John Martin added: “Yes, (the buffer zone) can be removed, but the criteria must be met. The eagles are still there and they use this site. I think it still serves a very important (purpose) and is a very lucrative sales pitch for Aspen Glen and the golf course.

“It’s not a recipe; in fact, it’s an improvement on the PUD,” Martin said.

Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected].

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