Proposed Sutey Ranch swap presents a thicket of issues

PITKIN COUNTY, Aspen, CO Colorado — In the land of astronomical land prices that is the Roaring Fork Valley, billionaire Leslie Wexner’s  proposal to exchange one piece of the terra firma for another has triggered debate about the true value of public open spaces.It’s not just about money, though plenty has been spent. It’s also about access, recreation, land conservation and the privatization of public property. Standing firmly in the controversy’s cross hairs is Pitkin County, which has been asked to endorse a land swap that the U.S. Congress must ultimately approve or deny.Both proponents and opponents of the swap have voiced persuasive arguments in an increasingly complex debate over a seemingly straightforward proposal: Landowner Leslie Wexner wants to trade the 513-acre Sutey Ranch north of Carbondale for 1,268 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property on the north flank of Mount Sopris, also near Carbondale. He purchased the Sutey Ranch (pronounced shoo-tee) for $6.5 million with the trade in mind, hoping to add the BLM acreage to his adjacent Two Shoes Ranch landholdings, on which he has already spent some $66 million. If the trade goes forward, then Wexner’s property at the base of Sopris would increase from roughly 4,400 acres to 5,600.
By Janet Urquart, Nov 1, 2009 Aspen Times

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