Commissioners threw away millions with Prehm Ranch decision |

Commissioners threw away millions with Prehm Ranch decision

Dear Editor,

On Sept. 9, the Garfield County Commissioners voted 2-1 to vacate a publicly owned roadway. What does this mean to the residents and taxpayers of Garfield County? It means that the people we voted into office to act as stewards of our assets just gave away a very valuable strip of property (1.8 miles, by 60 feet) without any compensation from the receiving party. We owned a roadway, property that can be given a monetary value as well as a value for use as a benefit to county residents.

If you calculate the value of land and the cost to the county of condemning a piece of property to replace this roadway, it would be valued in the millions. Walt Stowe and Larry McCown voted to vacate this roadway, effectively giving this asset to the developer of Prehm Ranch without any benefit to the residents and taxpayers of Garfield County. The value of this asset, a publicly owned corridor along the west bank of the Roaring Fork River linking Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, has grown immeasurably over the last 100 years, and its value would only continue to increase in the future.

State statute allows county commissioners to vacate a public roadway if it is proven to be in the best interest of the county. This decision in no way benefits the county, with the exception of eight future property owners in the Prehm Ranch gated community being developed.

This outcome also means that the opportunity to create a bike and pedestrian trail in this location has been lost forever. Garfield County Commissioners had an opportunity to join together with Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and the Prehm Ranch developer (now or in the future) in developing an asset that would have benefited the greater good of the County. Generous homeowners in Westbank even offered an easement through their property for a bike and pedestrian trail, to ensure a link to the road through Westbank.

The County’s ownership of this roadway was proven not only through numerous documents presented as exhibits to the commissioners, but by the mere fact that a request to vacate was on the table. Documentation confirmed that this property has been (was) a publicly owned asset since the late 1800’s. With one vote, by two of our county commissioners, this asset was erased forever. If there had been a question of county ownership, there would have been no need to vacate the roadway, and the commissioners would not have had the authority to do so.

It is wrong for our county commissioners to give away an asset that we own, without benefit, or even compensation, to us as taxpayers. Is this an example of responsible leadership?

Tresi Houpt,

Candidate for County Commissioner

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