Breckenridge Town Council looks to protect open space on McCain property |

Breckenridge Town Council looks to protect open space on McCain property

The 128-acre McCain property in Breckenridge is under development, as pictured on Tuesday, May 19. Town Council is taking steps to ensure 15 acres of open space on the property will remain protected from future development.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

As the town of Breckenridge continues working on the McCain Master Plan, Town Council members are considering options to protect a 15-acre plot on the property for use by Breckenridge Open Space & Trails.

The town has owned the 128-acre McCain property at the corner of Coyne Valley Road and Colorado Highway 9 since 2001, and there are currently 43 acres of open space on the property, including the Blue River corridor and sensitive habitat along the western side of the river.

During its Sept. 14 work session, Breckenridge Town Council discussed the best course of action for a 15-acre parcel of open space on the south end of the property. The site currently consists of dredge rock and imported fill with little native vegetation. Town engineers estimate it could cost around $1 million to revegetate the site and make it usable for Open Space & Trails.

Open Space & Trails is a town program meant to preserve lands that “define and enhance the unique mountain character” of the town, such as open space lands with trails, natural resources, historic sites and view corridors. It has its own budget as well as a 0.5% sales tax used exclusively for open space acquisition.

The Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission, which oversees the Open Space & Trails program, discussed the matter at its meeting Aug. 23, and the group expressed support for directing a nominal amount of funds to take control of the land. But the commission noted that it would prefer that money go directly toward the extensive site restorations needed. The commission also expressed concern over the perception of transferring money from one entity within the town to another.

Town Attorney Tim Berry said at the council meeting that there would not be any kind of property sale or transfer of legal documents, rather a conveyance of the land to Open Space & Trails because it is already town owned. He said it is truly just an accounting adjustment.

“Open space is not a legal entity and can’t own property, so it’s all going to be town owned,” Berry said.

Council member Erin Gigliello was wary of having Open Space & Trails pay to take control of the parcel.

“It’s all owned by the town, and so to take money that was allocated for Open Space and move it to other funds within the same entity … doesn’t feel right,” Gigliello said. “And I feel like (the commission) had a similar reaction.”

Council member Dick Carleton said it’s inevitable that council will continue having ideas for other potential developments on the land. He and a majority of other council members were supportive of a nominal purchase from Open Space & Trails that could then open the door to negotiations for splitting the costs of restoration work in the future.

The town originally spent about $115,000 on this land, and council was supportive of having Open Space & Trails pay this to the town’s general fund to solidify the 15 acres as its own. The town will look to split the costs with the group when the restorations begin.

Mayor Eric Mamula said he is concerned that the pressure on council to find more housing options could lead them to want to use some of this land for housing in the future.

“My worry is we just gobbled up 4 acres ourselves, and we’re the ones that want to protect it,” Mamula said. “I want to protect this from us. … I’m telling you, a couple of meetings and we’ll be like ‘Lets just take 5 acres of this for housing.’”

Town staff is also looking into creating some type of zoning district or layer that could further protect all of the town’s open space.

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