Hoping for huge GOCO grant
A significant amount of open space is being purchased just outside of Crested Butte through a state and local partnership. Through a collaboration between the town of Crested Butte, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Crested Butte Land Trust and potentially the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) program and Foothills of Crested Butte developers, more than 300 acres of open space will be procured up the Slate River drainage in two phases.
The Crested Butte Town Council agreed on Monday to spend a million dollars from its open space fund to help with the first-phase purchase of the “Kochevar” property just north of town. The hope is that GOCO will grant another $2 million early next year to purchase 176 of the 313 total acres. The deadline for the GOCO grant application is December 11. The second phase would complete the purchase in 2011.
Of the 383 acres of Kochevar land, a total of 313 acres would ultimately be purchased. A 106-acre parcel located directly in the town’s view shed on the hill north of town and west of the Saddle Ridge development would be included in phase one of the transaction. Seventy acres would be retained by the Kochevar family for home sites closer to Nicholson Lake.
The potential for the acquisition was first brought to light when the Foothills of Crested Butte developers tried to acquire the piece as part of the open space requirement for annexation.
TPL project manager Justin Spring said he had come to the area initially to look at the 23-acre “Spann” parcel that was offered for sale to the town last August.
He was told about the potential for the Kochevar parcel at that time, and he knew GOCO was looking at a new grant program to purchase prime property in the economic downturn when real estate prices are more favorable.
“The TPL feels this purchase represents one of the best opportunities in the state,” Spring told the council. “There is the view shed, the wildlife corridor, the high quality wetlands and recreational potential. It is the ultimate puzzle piece with other open space already in place in the valley. In the view of the TPL, Gunnison County is one of the top 25 most important landscapes to protect in Colorado.”
Spring said the sheer size of the transaction requires a partnership with the town, the Land Trust and TPL. He said the hope is to acquire the property in two phases. TPL would purchase the property and convey it to the town or the Crested Butte Land Trust. A conservation easement would be given to the other entity. Cattle grazing by the Allen family would continue on the property. An appraisal has not yet been completed and the appraisal will determine the ultimate price.
“Collaboration is very important to us,” CBLT Executive Director Ann Johnston said to the council. “This is a big priority area for the Land Trust.”
Mayor Leah Williams said the town wanted to protect that property whether or not the Foothills annexation was approved. If the annexation ultimately happens, the developers would be able to pay for the purchase of the 106 acres at the price paid by the TPL.
“It is a rare opportunity for the community to get a decent price on property and protect it in perpetuity,” said Foothills Attorney Jim Starr. “That property is very developable.”
“It’s a very exciting opportunity,” said Councilperson Dan Escalante.
Town Planner John Hess said in the second phase purchase, other entities such as the 1% for Open Space board, the County Land Preservation Board and the Department of Wildlife would be asked to contribute funds. “If we go to the DOW, would the council be okay with hunting on the property?” he asked.
Escalante suggested perhaps restricting it to a “junior hunters” area similar to parcels up Ohio Creek where young hunters with mentors learn the sport. Hess said he would pursue that idea.
Hiking, biking and Nordic trails would likely be allowed on the property but details of specific layout would have to be worked out “There is still a lot of work to be done on this,” said Hess. “We are certainly hoping to acquire a big GOCO grant but if that doesn’t come through we’ll basically be starting over.”
Councilperson Roland Mason said he was for pursuing the project but was concerned about taking $1 million from the Real Estate Transfer Tax fund that currently has about $1.3 million available. The town’s open space fund is financed through a 1.5 percent RETT tax specifically earmarked for open space purchases outside of town. Town Manager Susan Parker said they are projecting that the fund would garner about $450,000 a year.
The council agreed to pursue the GOCO grant and decided to spend $1 million from the RETT Open Space fund to purchase the Kochevar property. It is expected the town would find out if GOCO granted the $2 million request sometime next April.