Carbondale trustees restate support for the Sutey Ranch land exchange
CARBONDALE, Colorado – The Carbondale Town Council has maintained its endorsement of the proposed Sutey-Two Shoes land exchange, including new provisions offered by landowner Leslie Wexner in a compromise proposal presented to Pitkin County last month.Town trustees voted 6-1 to maintain their previously stated support of the plan, following a three-hour-long meeting Tuesday night attended by well over a hundred people. The vast majority of the crowd came to support the compromise proposal that would allow Wexner to acquire 1,268 acres of rugged Bureau of Land Management property adjacent to his Two Shoes Ranch on the north flank of Mount Sopris, south of Carbondale.In exchange, the BLM would acquire Wexner’s 520-acre Sutey Ranch, located next to the BLM Red Hill Recreation Area north of Carbondale.”The compromise is well beyond what some of us dreamt when we signed the letter supporting this last spring,” said Carbondale Trustee Stacey Patch Bernot.She reiterated concerns by some of the members of the public who spoke at the meeting that, if the local governments being asked to endorse the plan push too hard for more concessions, that the Wexner’s may walk on the deal.At the same time, she and other trustees thanked the county for asking the tough questions, which they said produced an even better proposal from Wexner.Also in attendance at the meeting was Abigail Wexner, wife of the billionaire CEO and chairman of the board of the Limited Brands apparel corporation, which includes Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.”I’m happy to be here, but most importantly I want to thank you all,” she said. “I know it’s been difficult, and my husband and I appreciate your careful deliberations in this.”Among the concessions offered by the Wexners in the new proposal would be to give up approvals for 10 homes on Two Shoes Ranch and other development rights, and provide a $1 million endowment to ensure long-term management of the Sutey Ranch.Other provisions include:• Donation of $100,000 for preparation of a management plan for the Sutey property.• Granting of an easement across a 7-acre parcel on the east side of Prince Creek Road at Two Shoes to resolve a mountain biking trespass issue.• Eliminating the ability to build a county-approved, 17,500-square-foot riding arena and 7,500 square feet of agricultural buildings in an irrigated meadow visible from Highway 133.• Placement of a conservation easement on nearly 230 acres of the Two Shoes ranch dubbed the Potato Bill tract, in addition to other conservation easements already included in the original proposal.Tuesday’s meeting was called at the request of Pitkin County officials earlier this year, after the county presented its own alternative in response to concerns about the original proposal.The county has declined to endorse the trade as originally proposed. Its alternative proposal would create a new open space parcel on Potato Bill Creek, including part of the Two Shoes property, as a way to improve public access to the north flank of Mt. Sopris.County commissioners asked the Carbondale board to wait before taking a position on the exchange until they have time to fully review Wexner’s compromise proposal. That’s not expected to happen until sometime in April.”We’ve really just begun to analyze and compare the two,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “I think some people signed on to this early without looking at all of the considerations. This proposal has continued to improve because one group was willing to say no.”In a memo to the Carbondale board preceeding Tuesday’s meeting, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Director Dale Will reiterated the county’s concerns about the disparity in acreage, as well as monetary value, of the two parcels. He also questioned assertions that the exchange as proposed by Wexner is preferable from the standpoint of wildlife protection.Wildlife concerns prompted the Division of Wildlife to support the Wexner compromise.”We are opposed to a trail going up through Potato Bill Canyon,” DOW officer Kevin Wright said at Tuesday’s meeting. “The Wexner plan is the best proposal from a wildlife standpoint.”All but one of the public comments were in support of the Wexner plan.”We don’t need 10 different accesses to Mt. Sopris, especially because of the impact on wildlife,” said Calvin Lee, who lives near the Sutey parcel and supports preservation of that tract. “I’m convinced that the Wexner plan is superior to the Pitkin County plan.”
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