What's Up With Pitkin County?

Monday, 03 February 2014 13:46

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen. Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV. They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com. In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters. You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

BOCC Pushes for Independence Pass Legislation

The Pitkin County Commissioners have been pushing for State legislation that will increase the current penalty for violating vehicle size restrictions on Independence Pass. Highway 82 over Independence Pass is the highest paved state highway on a through road in Colorado. It is the only high mountain pass in Colorado that prohibits vehicles or vehicle combinations longer than 35 feet regardless of weight or size because of the road’s tight corners, narrow lane widths, steep grades, lack of runaway truck ramps, no cellular service, and extended emergency response time. This past season, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s department responded to 43 calls for oversized vehicles, up from 37 calls in 2012. Other reasons to address this public safety issue are inadequate road base to support the weight of oversized vehicles causing road subsidence issues, particularly on the Lake County side; safety concerns with hikers, bicyclists and other recreation users on the pass; and environmental concerns. The current fines have not shown to be sufficient as an effective deterrent for truckers who use this route to save time and money. Even with CDOT signage (seven signs on Pitkin County side between Glenwood Springs and Aspen, and six signs on the Lake County side), each year we see an increase in truckers ignoring the prohibition, putting citizens at risk by “shortcutting” over the Pass.

This past June, I contacted Senator Gail Schwartz to enlist her support for new legislation. A follow up BOCC work session with Senator Schwartz in September set the wheels in motion. The proposal was put forth to the legislature’s Interim Transportation Committee with the intent to place it on the 2014 legislative agenda for approval. Representative Millie Hamner will sponsor the final legislation in the House for us.

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Set Out a Feast for your Feathered Friends

Saturday, 01 February 2014 08:45

by: Debbie Rodgers

 

February is 'Feed the Birds' month in much of North America. And what great timing! If you're going through a cold winter, you can help the wintering birds that are going through it with you. If you live further south, you'll have not only year-round feathered friends to feed, but also an influx of migrating visitors from colder climates.

If you grow native plants in your garden, chances are good you already have quite a few feathered visitors already. If you'd like to supplement that, or if nothing in your garden attracts birds, here are some tips for successful birdfeeder use.

There are three main factors to consider when you choose where to place a feeder:

  • There must be easy year-round access. You'll have to clean and fill the feeder in all types of weather.
  • There will always be debris under a bird feeding station, such as discarded shells, bird droppings, and so on. Choose a location where this can be easily cleaned up.
  • If there are squirrels in your neighborhood, you'll want to place the feeder where they can't reach it. Sure, they're cute but they won't share their food with the birds. The best solution for this problem is a pole-mounted feeder (the pole should be at least 10 feet from the nearest tree limb or trunk) that is either 'squirrel-proof' or protected by a baffle.

The first priority with the seed in a feeder is to keep it dry. Seed will spoil quickly when it gets damp or wet and can breed diseases like salmonella.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen. Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV. They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com. In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters. You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

2013 YEAR IN REVIEW

Looking over this past year as Chair of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners, certain issues took center stage. Among them, Thompson Divide was and continues to dominate much of the BOCC’s time, along with that of our County Attorney’s office. Last February I chaired a packed house at the Carbondale Town Hall, which provided the public the opportunity to voice their concerns to a panel representing both sides in the debate over oil and gas exploration in the Thompson Divide. We succeeded in obtaining Governor Hickenlooper’s support: an instrumental step. This past summer, as part of a small lobbying effort on Senator Udall, I solicited his support in signing on to Senator’s Bennet’s protection bill, and he agreed. Our Assistant County Attorney continues to travel to DC along with members of the Thompson Divide Coalition to press our concerns and garner support. We recently met with Representative Tipton to voice our views, although he did not agree. Needless to say, we will continue to pursue all avenues to protect this unique landscape from oil and gas exploration.

Since the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, I have met with all 3 Caucuses in my District to inform them of the ramifications of this amendment and invited them to weigh in with recommendations from their respective viewpoints. The BOCC continues to work on developing rules and regulations which should be ready for adoption in 2014.

We continue to make headway in addressing the stated goals from our Board retreat last winter: adding another unit to our inventory of affordable housing and exploring potential sites and partners for new employee housing projects; forming the non-profit Valley Health Alliance; and identifying locations with tower providers to improve cellular and broadband service. Other department highlights include:

Open Space and Trails added conservation easements in the Frying Pan, Old Snowmass and Emma, including ranch land acquired in partnership with Basalt and Eagle County with an adjacent ranch in Emma to be added in January, 2014; river property acquired in Redstone; and a coveted climbing area developed in Aspen. Staff also completed the Roaring Fork Gorge Management Plan (Slaughterhouse Bridge to Woody Creek); implemented Phase 1 of the Elk Park Master Plan in Redstone; constructed a new bike/terrain park in Basalt; and built two bridges (Brush Creek and Woody Creek) as part of our trail system.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Tuesday, 01 May 2012 08:22

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  


BOCC Adopts Climate Change Policy and Action Plan

Last summer I attended a presentation sponsored by ACES and CORE, given by my old Outward Bound colleague, Maggie Fox.  Maggie is the President and CEO of The Climate Protection Action Fund, an organization founded by Vice-President Al Gore.    She challenged us as individuals and as a community to take meaningful steps to bring about change through a grassroots effort of education and action that would press our Federal Legislators to adopt a meaningful policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to address economic problems, national security and the impending climate crisis for our nation.

I followed up by asking the BOCC to adopt a resolution stating a climate change policy for Pitkin County, which was formally adopted in March.  Back in 2008 we had put together an action plan outlining specific goals for improving energy efficiency and reducing resource consumption.  Our formal resolution incorporates our newly adopted strategic plan, which elaborates on our earlier effort and addresses the conservation of our natural resources and environment.  Our policy acknowledges the economic and environmental consequences of inaction with respect to climate change and promises that Pitkin County will be a leader in local and nationwide efforts to address global climate change.  

Pitkin County’s climate change policy recognizes the importance our natural environment holds for our tourist based economy, our recreational opportunities, the health of our forests and watershed, and our wildlife habitat.  Even now, we are starting to see changes in our snowpack (later fall snow, warmer winters and larger, wetter spring snow); changes in our forest health (pine beetle epidemics and sudden aspen decline); changes to summer storms and precipitation (prolonged droughts and heavier downpours -- events that are more extreme in both directions); changes to our run-off and stream flows; changes to our flora and fauna. As the temperature warms, high mountain ecosystems will be especially threatened as treelines move up, leaving the tundra no place higher to go.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Sunday, 01 April 2012 08:05

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen. Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV. They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com. In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters. You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

COUNTY UPDATES

The BOCC receives regular updates from our departments, and I share the following from Public Works, Road and Bridge, Human Services, the Library and the Airport.

Our landfill is currently projected to last 29 more years: 5 years longer than projected in 2005 thanks to the grinding program for construction and demolition debris which began in late 2008.  By sorting and grinding waste before placement in the Fill, we have been able to reduce the volume of material by up to 50% and also to recover items with recycling value such as metal objects and boulders.  Extending our landfill is critical as no other suitable landfill locations have been identified in the County.  As a staff member said: “After all, a landfill is a terrible thing to waste.”

From our Road and Bridge Department we will see a recommendation this month (March) on a pedestrian bypass at the Airport Business Center. This bypass will provide safer access to and from RFTA’s bus stops at the AABC, link up with new BRT bus stations and accommodate future design plans for the airport terminal.  I succeeded in securing the majority of funding needed for this project through my involvement with CDOT’s Intermountain Regional Planning Commission.  Staff is also coordinating with CDOT to complete a large paving project on State Highway 82 from Gerbazdale to the AABC, slated to begin mid-summer.  In addition, planning continues to move forward on BOCC approved road projects including Brush Creek Road, Redstone Blvd chip seal, Coal Creek culvert replacement, Smith Hill Way and Jack Gredig Lane overlays.  Finally, Phase 1 of the Redstone Coke Ovens stabilization and restoration is complete and Phase II is underway.  The latter will bring the site together, including a visitors’ walking path and interpretive site markers.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Thursday, 01 March 2012 07:01

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

BOCC retreat focuses on the ‘New Norm”


At our recent annual board retreat, we discussed what the “new norm” looks like in regards to our economy and how we as an organization can respond using the resources we have for the programs and services we provide.

We began with a presentation by the Headwaters Institute providing socio–economic indicators for our County compared with several other resort communities as well as national statistics.  This reaffirmed what we already knew but also offered some surprises. While our travel and tourism industry is very strong, there has been a net loss in jobs in this sector over the last decade.  Our construction industry was hard hit by the impact of the national housing crisis and recession; however, due to our slow growth policies, we have weathered it better than other resort communities and the nation as a whole.  From health care needs to environmental concerns, we are affected by State and National policies, ultimately affecting our tourist based economy.  Meanwhile, our demographics appear to be changing more rapidly than other resorts in terms of the aging of our population.

With our newly approved 2012 budget and strategic plan in place, we have reallocated resources from areas of less demand to those of greater need, and have made a commitment to investing in capital projects such as roads and facilities as well as to social capital through staff training and development.  We recognize there will be an increased demand to meet the needs of our aging population while we continue to face challenges in attracting a new, younger work force to maintain a resilient economy.  The question is how we grow our tourist industry without negatively impacting our quality of life and natural environment which play such a critical role in our economy.

To further address these issues, we have identified the following specific areas of focus for this coming year:

Diversification and resilience of our economy
Affordable Housing
Health Care
Broadband Service
Community Outreach
Proactive lobbying.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Monday, 02 January 2012 07:48

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .   
 

 

2011 YEAR IN REVIEW

2011 was a challenging and productive year for the BOCC.  It began with a new Commissioner (Rob Ittner) a new Sheriff (Joe DiSalvo) and a new County Manager (Jon Peacock).   

Some exciting accomplishments this year included:
The recently completed 1000’ runway extension at the Pitkin County Airport which allows airlines to utilize more seats and improve passenger safety.  In addition, we are in the midst of developing a new master plan for both the airport and terminal.  (Public meetings will continue into next year for further input.)  This year we also prioritized a future transportation access plan for Highway 82 and the AABC, including ongoing work for a grade-separated pedestrian crossing.  The airport master plan will look at how to integrate its traffic flows into this busy intersection.

Based on considerable citizen and Community Development input, we finalized new land use code amendments for agricultural structures and new standards for solar installations.  We are now interviewing interested citizens to serve on the new Agriculture Advisory Committee.  Also based on community meetings, County staff’s and attorney’s input, the BOCC took a pass on the permitting and licensing of marijuana dispensaries and grow sites in Pitkin County.  

In November, we sought and were successful in gaining voters’ approval for the continuation of the Healthy Community Fund enabling us to continue to support human service organizations in the Valley who do so much to meet the needs of our citizens struggling in these tough economic conditions.  Thank you to all who voted!

This year, our Open Space and Trails department was awarded a CDOT Scenic Byway grant to begin work on Elk Park as part of the related Redstone Master Plan.  We also completed the restoration of the Redstone Coke Ovens; a remarkable project in and of itself.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Thursday, 01 December 2011 07:11

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .   



NEW FOCUS WITH 2012 BUDGET


In 2010, the BOCC and staff held a series of “kitchen talks” throughout the County.  The goal was to revisit our mission statement which was last done in a similar format 10 years ago.  It provided us an opportunity to share with citizens the current programs and services we offer and to gather input and re-set priorities.  This past year at our annual retreat, we reviewed the data collected and created a new mission statement as well as a new vision statement on where we see the County going.   This then led to a new strategic plan which all the County departments used in the development of the proposed 2012 budget as well as a 5 year plan; the overall goal being to focus on investing in services and infrastructure that will produce results citizens need and desire.   

While our overall budget includes special revenue funds (airport, landfill, library, open space and trails, translator, E-911), this article focuses on the General Fund which includes the County’s core services (road and bridge, human services, public safety, community development, administration, clerk and recorder, attorney’s office, public works/fleet).  The projected 2012 budget for these core services is $23,284,930.

Revenues to the General Fund come from property taxes (28%), sales taxes (28%), program and service fees (21%), intergovernmental revenue (17%) and miscellaneous other sources (6%).  Property taxes that go towards the general fund are less than $.06/tax dollar collected.   Pitkin County levies a 3.6% sales tax. These funds are split amongst 4 separate authorities: 1.5% for mass transit, 0.1% for the Healthy River and Stream fund, with the remaining 2% shared with Aspen, Snowmass Village and Basalt. The final allocation to the County’s General Fund is 43% of this 2%, which is less than a penny for every dollar spent in Pitkin County.

Based on our strategic plan, we are taking a new approach to our proposed budget and 5 year plan by realigning resources from services experiencing less demand (Community Development) to those experiencing more demand (Human Services and Road and Bridges).  In addition, we are increasing our investment in the recruitment, retention and development of a professional and qualified workforce.  By merging and reallocating some of our “undesignated” fund balances (facilities fund, tech pool fund, and road fund); we will be able to re-apportion these dollars in conjunction with designating 50% of all sales tax revenues towards capital projects.  

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Tuesday, 01 November 2011 07:19

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .   


MR SMITH (AKA NEWMAN) GOES TO WASHINGTON  

In September I was invited by the Wilderness Society to attend the Great America Outdoors conference in Washington, DC.  Attendees included conservation advocates, sportsmen, youth leaders and others whose goals were to build support for the protection of America’s great outdoors through increased funding for public lands conservation, access for hunting and fishing.  It was an opportunity for participants to visit with their Congressional delegates and other leaders in these areas.  For me, it was also an opportunity to arrange a series of meetings to discuss issues of concern in Pitkin County with our Congressional delegates as well as high level staff at the Department of Agriculture (USFS) and Department of Interior (BLM).   

Over the course of 3 days, I met with Senator Mark Udall, Senator Michael Bennet, Congressman Scott Tipton and their staffs, as well as with Congresswoman Diana DeGette’s staff.  In addition, I met with Robert Bonnie, senior advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture; and William Falsey, Deputy Chief of Staff (BLM) at the Department of the Interior  as well as Neil Kornze, senior advisor to the office of the Director, (BLM) Department of the Interior .

I discussed in depth the County’s position on the Thompson Creek issue and the urgent need for Congressional and Administration leadership to deny SG Interests’ request for the unitization of 18 leases encompassing 32,000 acres, based on public benefit and resource conservation.   I requested they at least postpone the permitting until the issue of gap leases (13 of those 18 being gap leases) has been addressed and the Thompson Divide Coalition has had the opportunity to sit down with SG Interests to discuss options and opportunities for the protection of this unique area.  On October 12, Senator Bennet and Senator Udall sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requesting this delay.  I am very pleased by their quick action and support.  I encourage you to send our Senators thank you letters and ask them to introduce legislation to protect this unique area from future oil and gas exploration and also send letters supporting the request to delay the unitization to Secretary’s Vilsack and Salazar.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Saturday, 01 October 2011 07:42

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  


VOTE YES ON REFERENDUM 1A FOR HEALTHY COMMUNITY FUND!

The Healthy Community Fund is a dedicated property tax that provides a stable source of critical funding to local Health and Human Services and Community Non-Profit agencies working to keep citizens independent, healthy and safe.

This fund sunsets in December 2012 and as the need in our Community continues to increase, the BOCC has authorized a ballot issue to continue this property tax starting in 2013 for 6 years.  We are asking the voters to approve a marginal increase of the fund by $446,000 to raise the current level of funding from $1,480,000 to $1,944,000.  This equates to an additional property tax of only $1.31/$100,000 assessed property value.

For the past 9 years, the Healthy Community Fund has provided millions of dollars to promote the social, emotional, physical and economic well-being of our children, families and seniors.  It is estimated that each year, the Fund assists agencies that reach over 10,000 people throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.  A volunteer Citizen grant review committee evaluates all grant requests based on “grant criteria” and their recommendations are then approved by the BOCC.  Last year, the Fund contributed $1,561,368 to 61 organizations but for the first time had to utilize some of its reserves to do so.  63% of those dollars went to health and human service agencies whose programs support family and youth issues, mental health, substance abuse and legal services.  24% went to programs that support the well-being of our Senior Citizens, and 13% went to community non-profits who address community problems and enhance our quality of life from cultural, recreational and educational programs to natural/environmental concerns.  

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Thursday, 01 September 2011 05:42

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .   


BOCC opposes Crystal River Project

Pitkin County has filed a statement of opposition to the Crystal River Project as proposed by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District in their renewal application to water court.

The history of this Project goes back to the 1950’s for conditional water rights to export water from the Crystal River to the Divide and Mamm Creek drainages in Garfield County.  The intent was to use this water for agricultural needs and municipal and industrial purposes primarily associated with the development of oil shale.  This project  known as the West Divide Project included the construction of five reservoirs and many miles of ditches, canals and siphons to store and transport the water.  This included the Redstone Reservoir of approximately 129,000 acre feet, the Placita Reservoir at 62,000 acre feet and the Yank Creek Reservoir at about 14,000 acre feet.  By comparison, Reudi Reservoir is 100,000 acre feet and Paonia Reservoir is 15,000 acre feet. The federal government withdrew its support for the project in 1982 determining that the potential cost and benefit of the Project did not justify its completion as part of the Colorado River Storage Project Act.  

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Friday, 01 July 2011 06:29

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen. Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV. They are also streamed live and available on the County website. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com. In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters. You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

BOCC gives input...

As a headwaters County and tourist based economy, Pitkin County Commissioners actively correspond and meet with our Congressional delegation concerning the health of our water, wildlife, air and overall environment.  Most urgently, we asked the BLM to deny the proposed Lake Ridge Exploratory Oil and Gas Unit application by SG Interests I LTD on 32,000 acres of BLM land within the Thompson Creek area.  This unique area and ecosystem has been identified for protection from oil and gas development by the Thompson Creek Coalition.  The BLM must determine this proposal is “necessary or advisable in the public interest” and provide opportunities for the public at large to comment on this proposal before taking any actions.  

In addition, the BOCC submitted comments to the USFS on the Lava Boulder Project application by Antero Resources to drill up to four exploratory natural gas wells on a 2,500 acre federal lease they hold near the headwaters of East Divide Creek.  We stressed the public health and safety impacts of this proposal, located just upstream from numerous rural residences.  One involves water quality in a watershed that provides municipal water, another concerns potentially toxic air levels from flare gas and dust.  Wildlife and ranchers with grazing rights would be adversely affected as well.  

Meanwhile, we recently provided feedback on the BLM’s 2011 Oil Shale Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which is intended to “take a fresh look at previous allocation decisions to consider what public lands (in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming) are best suited for oil shale and tar sands development.”  Pitkin County’s stance is that it is premature to open public lands identified in 2008 or proposed in 2011 until technologies for resource extraction have been developed and impacts understood. Oil shale production will likely utilize vast amounts of water from the Colorado River Basin.   Issues include water quality and quantity for human consumption, livestock and wildlife as well as irrigating agricultural lands and outdoor recreation; loss of habitat and fragmentation of contiguous wild lands necessary to sustain wildlife; air quality and overall human health impacts; and the cost/benefit of oil shale production.  These are issues critical to the health and sustainability of our resort economy as well as the State as a whole.  This issue is still open for public comment.

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It's Weed Season

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 07:09

A pernicious weed is a notorious criminal that once established, becomes unusually invasive and won't go away.  One of the best ways to become a greener gardener is to keep these bad boys under control with regular attention.  Failure to do so is why chemical weed killers are still in use.

If bindweed bedevils your summer garden, it will rapidly twine up your tomatoes and corn.  Try to pull it up and the stems break off at the soil level as a mature plant can spread a dense network of roots 20 to 30 feet in diameter.  Try to dig it up the wrong way and you'll only scatter rootlets far and wide.  Each tiny bit of severed root can grow into a whole new plant.  This is just one example why knowing your weeds personally is key to freeing your property of repeat offenders.

Spring is a pivotal time when good garden-keeping can save you a season of trouble.  An ounce of weed prevention is indeed worth a pound of labor or chemical cure.

The primary divisions of weeds, like other garden plants, relate to when they reproduce.  Each is annual, perennial or biennial, and some heinous individuals reproduce by more than one means.

Annuals, such as star thistle, grow for a single year from seed, mature, then set seed for the next year.  Some annual weeds can produce up to 250,000 seeds a year, explaining the gardener's phrase "One year's seeds is seven years' weeds".  Clearly, it is important to pull this plant before it flowers.

A biennial such as teasel grows from seed but rarely flowers the first year.  It dies back for winter and grows from the roots the second spring.  That's when it flowers and sets seed, then the plant dies.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 06:00

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .   


SOLAR CODE UPDATE

Just as the BOCC has been revisiting the Land Use Code in regards to agricultural buildings and greenhouses (last month’s column), we have also asked staff to address public concerns about solar installations.  Once again, Pitkin County staff held a public roundtable discussion in Basalt including caucus members, solar installers and interested citizens.  The information gathered from these meetings has been processed, presented to the P&Z and to the BOCC over the past year.  We are now at the point of refining all of the recommendations and we hope the matter will appear on our regular BOCC public hearing agenda for a vote later this summer.

Initially, the County was asked to modify the Code to allow an increase in the height restriction for ground mounted solar collectors.  Current code limits the height of these structures to 10 feet, which can cause problems when heavy snow is on the ground.   Rather than address just this one issue, the Board felt it was important to revisit the solar code in its entirety to also address the issue of glare, and the prospect of neighborhood solar arrays as well as commercial solar farms.

To date, P&Z has held 4 meetings on this subject, including one joint meeting with the BOCC.  Based on the information gathered, County staff recommends increasing the height limit for ground mounted solar collectors to 12 feet on parcels of 80 acres or less and to 16 feet for parcels of 80 acres or more, the rationale being that, on larger properties, visual impacts on neighbors would be less.  Personally, I question the use of lot size as a gauge in this instance.  

Meanwhile, glare is an offsite impact that can affect neighbors of a property with solar panels, and will now be included under our “nuisance” section of the code.  When glare is determined to be a nuisance, the property owner will be required to mitigate the problem.  Solar installers are cognizant of this issue and are hopefully addressing it.  One solution is to install adjustable panels.  This would allow changing the angle of the panels to reduce glare and optimize the solar gain as the angle of the Sun changes with the seasons.  Other options for mitigation are also open to consideration.

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Sno/Cap Caucus Sponsors Clean-Up Day

Wednesday, 01 June 2011 04:47

On Saturday, May 14, residents of our Caucus valleys gathered for our annual clean-up day.  After walking our roads and gathering trash accumulated over the winter, the participants enjoyed lunch and an award ceremony at WindStar.  Prizes were distributed for Best Story won by Gretta Hansen, Most Toxic was won by Steve Child.  New neighbors Dave and Jill Nixa walked off with the Most Unusual award while Seth Sachson and Brother Aaron took home the prize for Best of Trash.

The trash clean-up effort benefits ALL of us and keeps our valleys beautiful, so thanks to the residents who came out to help.  Thanks also to the prize contributors, Bristlecone, Woody Creek Tavern, Tempranillo, and Juicy Lucy's.  Thanks also to Patsy Batchelder for contributing wine.

We would also like to thank Board member, Kathy DeWolfe, for organizing the event.
   

What's Up With Pitkin County?

Sunday, 01 May 2011 05:17

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Greenhouses

As I wrote a few months ago regarding code changes/exemptions to agricultural structures, part of that discussion was also to view greenhouses as separate from agricultural buildings.  At present, greenhouses are treated like barns in the County’s Land Use Code.  They count as part of the total allowed floor area for properties less than 20 acres and are included in the extra square footage allowed for barns on lots of 20 acres or more.  The current notion is to ease up on our regulations for greenhouses, allowing exemptions from the current FAR maximum (floor to area ratio) to help and encourage citizens who wish to grow their own food.  To go a step further, the BOCC is also looking at differentiating between private and commercial greenhouses.

Last year, planning staff held a public meeting in Basalt to garner ideas from residents and also received input from several greenhouse “experts.”  The definition of greenhouse includes a detached building where trees, fruit, vegetables, flowers, grain and other crops are grown.  Staff recommends excluding “row covers” which are laid directly over plants or over supports, and have limited height (less than 4 feet).  Greenhouses may be attached to a home but in that case would be included in the calculation of residential square footage.

The Code currently allows a property owner to build up to 5750 SF of total improvements (FAR) so exemptions are necessary only if the total exceeds that size.  Based on current dome style models, exemptions for private greenhouses may run from 250 SF to 350 SF depending on the underlying zoning (residential vs. agricultural).  Similar to agricultural buildings, an owner may use allowable FAR to accommodate a larger greenhouse, or can request additional SF via the administrative review process.  

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Friday, 01 April 2011 06:23

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen. Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV. Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com. In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters. You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Medical Marijuana

In recent months, the BOCC has held several work sessions regarding medical marijuana dispensaries and growing operations. Planning staff has met with neighborhood caucuses to provide updated information and gather input. The Crystal River Valley Caucus and the Redstone Community Association have said they do not want dispensaries in Redstone. However, the issue of allowing grow sites was not as clear. This has been the case in several other caucus areas as well, where the primary concerns focus on potential impacts to neighbors. Establishing minimum lot sizes, required setbacks, and prohibiting growing in established residential subdivisions as well as in multifamily or mixed use buildings are some of the measures suggested to address noise, fire and water quality problems. Odor from grow operations has also become a growing concern (no pun intended) for adjacent property owners. Others fear their property values would further decline.

 

State legislators propose several changes to current legislation. First, land used for marijuana cultivation could not be classified as agricultural for tax purposes: a measure we support. Second, there would be a moratorium on consideration of any new/additional applications until July 2012. This does not alter the State’s deadline of July 2011 for Counties to regulate existing dispensaries, grow sites and primary care givers. In addition, the State may change its regulation maintaining the “confidentiality” of grow operation locations. Although this may address neighbors’ rights to know, it increases my concerns about theft and/or criminal activities already posing problems in other Counties. Finally, the State may require Counties to be responsible for the regulation of grow sites. We have neither the Staff nor the budget to audit these operations for compliance.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 06:26

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .      


PITKIN COUNTY REACHES OUT

The BOCC continues to improve methods for keeping citizens informed on County business.  When I was first elected just over 2 years ago, the County was televising the bi-monthly BOCC meetings locally, but not offering any other means for full and part time residents to follow developments in real time.  I supported televising our weekly work sessions, which we did almost immediately.   Of course, those living in the rural areas could only access those meetings if they had cable (still not available in much of rural Pitkin County) or via satellite dish (at a substantial cost).  About a year ago, through our translator system (where we receive our radio stations), we not only upgraded our free television system providing better reception, but also added additional TV channels including Grassroots TV and CGTV 11 (our County station).  I have received many compliments on this enhanced service and have enjoyed using it myself in Emma.

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What's Up With Pitkin County?

Tuesday, 01 February 2011 08:47

The Pitkin County Commissioners hold weekly work sessions on Tuesdays and bi-monthly public hearings on Wednesdays in the Plaza One building (next to the Courthouse) in Aspen.  Both meetings are televised live and repeated on locater CG12 TV.  Agendas are posted in the Aspen/Glenwood newspapers and on-line at www.aspenpitkin.com.   In this column, your District 5 Commissioner, George Newman offers his take on current matters.   You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .      


A LOOK BACK ON 2010

As I end my year as Chair, I’d like to share with you some of the challenges and accomplishments of the BOCC this past year.   County business covers a wide spectrum, but given that over 90% of Pitkin County is public lands, it’s no great surprise that much of our time was devoted to these issues and they generated the most public interest.   Perhaps the greatest challenge this year was the proposed BLM land swap with the Two Shoes Ranch.  This application generated a lot of discussion, meetings, changes and controversy but in the end we simply could not support this privatization of public lands given what we felt was an unequal benefit for the public.  On a more positive note, with the consensus of competing groups, we strongly supported The Thompson Divide Coalition, Congresswomen Diane DeGette’s Wilderness Bill and the Hidden Gems Wilderness Proposal, all designed to further the protection of public lands in our area.  

Meanwhile, our Open Space and Trails staff were very busy opening new trails including the Crystal River Bike Trail, Smuggler Mt trails and Rio Grande enhancement.  This past year also saw the opening of Filoha Meadows, the restoration of the historic Emma Town site buildings and the completion of Redstone Park Master Plan.   The County acquired the Tarr property on Avalanche Creek, the Downey property near Basalt High School and the Cerise river parcel on the Roaring Fork in Basalt, not to mention our capstone purchase this year: the 800+ acre Droste property along Brush Creek.

The Healthy Rivers and Streams Board was also very busy this past year becoming familiar with local stream health, water issues and water law.  They approved funding for several studies including a baseline study on the health of the Roaring Fork River between Salvation Ditch and Castle Creek; an independent review of the City of Aspen’s hydro-electric plant as it relates to the stream health of Castle and Maroon Creek; and the completion of phase 2 of the Roaring Fork Valley watershed study.  They also helped fund boat ramp inspections for invasive species at Ruedi Reservoir and legal work to establish a RICD (recreational in-channel diversion) to help improve minimum stream flows and improve riparian habitat on a severely impacted stretch of the Roaring Fork.                                                              

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2010 Weed Pull @ St Benedicts

On July 17, 2010 residents of our valleys gathered at the Benedictine Monastery for the first annual volunteer noxious weed eradication effort co-sponsored by the SnoCap Caucus and Pitkin County.  The targets of the operation were Canadian thistle and houndstongue.  Spray was employed by those engaged in ridding the area of the thistle since Canadian thistle multiplies if cut or dug.  Machetes and shovels were the tools of choice for the attack on the houndstongue.  Cookies were provided by the monks at the end of a rewarding morning.  With noxious weeds abounding in our valleys, a coordinated effort is required by us all if we are to preserve our natural landscape. 

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To learn more about what you can do to help, please visit the Bulletin Board on our web site, or contact Crystal Yates-White, Pitkin County Land Manager at 920-5214.

   

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