Ten of 11 property owners gave easement for free
by Alissa Johnson
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council has agreed to pay a Mt. Crested Butte property owner $17,000 in order to obtain an easement for the rec path between Marcellina Lane and Winterset Drive.
The decision comes after 10 other property owners along the same stretch of Gothic Road donated easements to the town.
“We needed to obtain an easement to design the path and have it go where it should go,” explained town manager Joe Fitzpatrick at the October 6 Town Council meeting. “This particular property owner rejected the idea and refused to go along with the neighbors, who all donated an easement.”
An alternate design was developed in order to avoid the property in question, which is owned by Robert D. and Anita Joyce Puglisi, but according to Fitzpatrick the alternate design was not as good as the original. He also told the council there had been some hope that the property—which was listed for sale—would sell, and an easement could be obtained with new owners. That has not transpired, however.
“Where it’s come out is that in continued discussions with the Puglisis we arrived at a number to pay them for an easement and they have agreed to it…” Fitzpatrick said. “If the council approves the easement agreement, the recreation path will be able to go through their property and be where it belongs and make it the safest and most direct path as far away from traffic as possible.”
During the process, Fitzpatrick said, the town discovered that the house on the lot in question has an illegal setback on the northeast boundary. As part of the agreement, the town waives the right to pursue any correction of that encroachment.
In a follow-up conversation with the Crested Butte News, Fitzpatrick said the town first approached property owners a few years ago. Negotiations regarding the property in question took place over the last few months, with the council discussing those negotiations in executive session.
If the town had kept the path in its right of way, Fitzpatrick said, “We couldn’t make the path 10 feet wide. It was going to be a little narrower and right on the edge of traffic, so we would have put in a guardrail and it just wasn’t the right way to do it.”
At the October 6 meeting, mayor David Clayton pointed out that the property owners who donated easements would be notified of the situation. “Previously, the council discussed writing a letter right away to the other easement owners to let them know what the situation is,” Clayton said.
The council seemed reluctant to pay for the easement but agreed to do so in order to avoid jeopardizing a Colorado Department of Transportation grant of nearly $1 million for the completion of the rec path.
“I’d like to say that I don’t like paying them $17,000 since the other properties didn’t get anything, but in light of the lengthy negotiations it took us to get this and the $922,884 grant that is at stake, we need to go ahead,” said councilmember Gary Keiser.
“And I think included in that is the public safety issue that we’re finally correcting,” added councilmember Todd Barnes.
Mayor Clayton also pointed out that pursuing the easement through other legal means could have cost as much or more than the payment to the Puglisis. The council voted unanimously to approve the agreement, and if all goes as hoped, construction could begin next spring.
“The town is very thankful of all the other property owners who donated their easements,” Fitzpatrick said. “It allows for more money to go to the actual construction of the rec path and for the town to make sure we have enough funds for the project.”