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Eagle buffer zone removal request to go through longer county review process

Garfield County commissioners voted unanimously Monday that removing the eagle nest buffer zone at Aspen Glen should be treated as a “substantial” land use modification.

The buffer zone — established along either side of the Roaring Fork River — has prevented development of three platted and zoned residential parcels within the Aspen Glen planned unit development. Aspen Glen Golf Co. made the request to remove the buffer zone.

Haley Carmer of Garfield and Hecht, representing Aspen Glen Golf Co., said at Monday’s regular BOCC meeting that the removal of the buffer zone is procedural, not substantive, because conditions for its removal were included in the original PUD filing in the early 1990s and therefore should be considered a minor modification.



County attorney Kelly Cave said county code dictates that a modification is considered substantial if it includes release of a plan provision, and that she would “lean toward” this being a substantial modification.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky moved to consider the request a substantial modification.



“Just being cautious, I guess,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Samson seconded.

County staff had not made a recommendation.

Senior planner Glenn Hartmann said the choice of substantial over minor modification in this case would mean a lengthier process with a hearing in front of the county Planning Commission.

In explaining his stance, Samson said the extra time and effort would be worthwhile.

“I agree that it would be to our benefit to let the Planning Commission weigh in on this. I think it would be best for people to have extra time to comment. … We’re continuing to follow our precedent of giving the people their say,” he said.

He also said he found a letter from attorney Ken Salazar to be “useful.”

“I draw attention to a very compelling letter that was sent to us from Ken Salazar,” he said.

Salazar served as Colorado’s attorney general, the state’s Democratic U.S. Senator from 2005-09 and Interior Secretary under President Obama from 2009-13. He now works for the Denver office of the national law firm WilmerHale. Salazar’s letter says he represents “a group of residents in the Aspen Glen community.”

Of seven people making public comment Monday, six were opposed to the request going forward as a minor modification. One of these was Harp Neu Hanlon attorney Michael Sawyer who represents a client whose property is adjacent to the eagle protection zone. The seventh was Balcomb and Green attorney Chad Lee, who represents Aspen Glen Golf Co.

In Carmer’s presentation she outlined how the request to remove the eagle nest buffer zone complies with county land use code review criteria for a minor modification.

The PUD was approved by the BOCC at the time with or without the buffer zone, so the removal would cause no increase in approved density.

The parcels, though functioning as undeveloped land with the buffer restriction on development, were not dedicated as open space, so their development would not be considered a loss of open space.

She also mentioned that the PUD states that Aspen Glen can apply to remove the buffer zone if Colorado Parks and Wildlife approves.

The Post Independent reported on Monday that Aspen Glen says it received an email from local CPW Officer John Groves saying “since the eagle nest and tree no longer exist, the Eagle Protection zone at Aspen Glen is no longer needed.”

No date was set for further hearings.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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