Schutt property being eyed for conservation easement

Town of CB commits $750,000

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

The town of Crested Butte is committing $750,000 from its open space fund to help the Crested Butte Land Trust facilitate a conservation easement (CE) on 107 acres just south of town owned by Bob and Suzanne Schutt. The town council agreed to the financial commitment at the Monday, March 21 council meeting and also agreed to send a letter of support asking Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to help fund the CE through a $127,000 grant.

The property is described as containing wetlands, sub-irrigated meadows and the final meanders of the Slate River wetlands before it becomes naturally re-channelized prior to its confluence with the East River. The parcel shares a border with the town-owned parcel at Town Ranch and the private McCormick Ranch, both of which are under restrictive covenants that prevent dense development and wetland infilling.

CBLT executive director Jake Jones said the conservation easement will “extinguish future development rights on the parcel, ensuring that the highly productive wetlands, wildlife habitat, seasonal ski trail and the stunning viewshed are protected forever.” 

The conservation easement would basically prohibit the allowance of two additional lots being subdivided on the property which, under the state’s 35-acre rule could otherwise happen without a county Land Use resolution change request. A property owner could request even denser development on the property through the county in the future, but the CE would also prohibit that possibility.

The proposed easement would continue the winter Nordic Trail easement and the summer access to float through the property on the Slate River. As for wildlife, there is a major elk herd that uses the property for migration.

Jones said the easement is a valuable piece of the open space puzzle near Crested Butte. “As the value of land continues to climb in the Gunnison Valley, the Land Trust is grateful to work with landowners like Bob and Suzanne Schutt on the conservation of land important to their family, the planet and the people of Gunnison County,” he said. “The Schutt’s conservation easement will expand the Land Trust’s 30-year effort to protect productive wetlands, critical to water quality and storage in the headwaters of the Gunnison River. The Land Trust has been working with Bob and Suzanne for nearly two years on the details of this project and we believe that their property is ideal for permanent protection and stewardship.”  

He explained the valuation of the easement was $3 million and aside from the town and GOCO, funding is coming from the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Fund, 1% for Open Space and private donors. The Schutt’s have also committed to a 50% ($1.5 million) bargain sale CE donation. They will receive state tax credits that can be sold for cash.

The town had budgeted $750,000 for the conservation easement in 2022 out of the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) fund which as of January 18 had $2.6 million.

Jones said the CBLT is very grateful for the town’s RETT. “The Town of Crested Butte’s Open Space Real Estate Transfer Tax, established by a vote in the early 1990s, was visionary at the time and continues to support the conservation of lands that define our community. The legacy of the RETT can be seen throughout the upper valley including public amenities like the Lower Loop, Mt. CB Rec Path, Lupine Trail, Magic Meadows ski trails, Gunsight Bridge and Long Lake, not to mention the protection of agricultural lands important to local ranchers.”

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