Eagle County open space decision delayed

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— County commissioners delayed a decision Tuesday about whether to spend millions of dollars on a conservation easement to block the Colorado River Ranch from development.

The board heard hours of input on the proposed deal from county staff, officials from the Eagle Valley Land Trust, the owners of the ranch and members of the public, but decided to delay the decision because Commissioner Jon Stavney wasn't there.

Commissioner Sara Fisher said Stavney's absence was unexplained and that she hadn't talked to him.

"We do want Jon to be able to weigh in," Fisher said.

The hearing will continue at 1:30 p.m. Monday.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust wants to preserve the 1,000-acre working ranch 12 miles north of Dotsero using a conservation easement. The land is valued at $13.2 million. Without development rights, the land is worth $5.3 million, according to the most recent appraisal of the property. The difference of $7.9 million is the cost of the easement.

The property owners agreed to contribute $1 million toward the deal. The land trust requested the county kick in $5.7 million and agreed to make up the rest.

Fisher and Commissioner Peter Runyon were concerned about the price.

"I think the price tag is a little too high," Fisher said.

The $5.7 million request accounts for 72 percent of the easement price. Runyon suggested, as one option, funding 60 percent of the easement might be a better split for the county.

"It's a great piece of property and a great opportunity," Runyon said. "I am greedy. I'm greedy for money in the open space fund so that we can buy even more. If a project like this comes along, and we can put up 60 percent and get 40 percent, that's a win for everybody. It becomes more of a community project."

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