Trustee questions Carbondale plan to sell island property
CARBONDALE, Colorado – Carbondale’s town board is set to consider a proposal at a special Tuesday night meeting to sell a 17-acre island parcel on the Roaring Fork River as part of a court settlement in a property line dispute.
The deal, as outlined in a proposed ordinance that’s before town trustees tonight, would serve to transfer a piece of land that was given to the town in 1981 by Paul and Rachel Krausch, to a pair of adjacent property owners for $100,000.
But at least one town trustee is questioning the settlement agreement, as well as the lack of a public process to this point, arguing the town should hold onto it for its recreational value to river users.
Even if the town were to sell the land, it is potentially worth much more than is being proposed in the settlement, Trustee John Hoffmann said in an e-mail that was widely distributed to town residents on Monday.
“This land is currently only being accessed by the river, but it is a public gem in a three-mile strip of developed private properties along a river that is bristling with no trespassing signs,” Hoffmann noted in his e-mail.
“Our Island is a diamond sitting in a drawer, but it is a diamond nonetheless and should not be given away for a pittance,” he wrote in encouraging citizens to attend tonight’s meeting and offer their thoughts.
The proposed settlement comes in response to a 2009 civil case in Garfield County District Court brought by neighboring property owners Michael Stahl and Tom and Mary Joiner. In the case, the parties contend that some of the island property that the town now claims ownership of was erroneously gifted to the town 30 years ago. They have asked a judge to re-set the boundary between their properties and the town’s island property.
“In order to avoid the costs attendant to further litigation of this matter, representatives of the town, Stahl and Joiner have negotiated a potential settlement of the case,” according to the ordinance drawn up by town attorney Mark Hamilton.
For $100,000, the island parcel would transfer to Stahl and the Joiners. Certain conditions would apply, including that public floating rights on the river be preserved through the area, and that the deeded property not be developed.
The deal, which came after several months worth of private negotiations between the town and the landowners, also preserves the town’s right to service and replace several municipal water wells that are located on the island parcel.
“The terms allow the public to float the river channel,” Hoffmann acknowledged, “as long as they do not accidentally touch the shore;” meaning any land fall would be considered trespassing.
He pointed out that state law requires a vote of the public in order for a town to dispose of publicly owned property. However, “we are circumventing this by saying that people have not used the property,” Hoffmann said.
He countered that the island parcel is regularly used by anglers who float by or access the area in other ways, and that it’s a popular stopping-off point for river rafters and kayakers.
“The town has just completed five years of painful negotiations to purchase 8 acres of land at a busy intersection (Highway 82/133 intersection located downstream) to acquire land along the river,” Hoffmann said. “We paid $340,000 an acre because there are very few places to access and enjoy the river on public land in our valley.
“Now, we will turn around and sell 17 acres of valuable river bottom land, that could be assessed at $5,000,000 based on our recent sale; and we could sell it tonight for $100,000,” he said.
The matter is tentatively scheduled to be discussed during tonight’s special town board meeting at 9:15 p.m. at Carbondale Town Hall.
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