Letter to the editor: Proceed with extreme caution on Fiester Preserve
The Summit Board of County Commissioners is considering challenging the conservation easement it placed on the Fiester Preserve property 25 years ago. Easements are managed and protected by entities called land trusts, such as Colorado Open Lands. They are tasked with inspecting and ensuring the requirements of the easement are followed by everyone, including those who placed it there originally and their successors or heirs. This is not done lightly. Colorado Open Lands CEO Tony Caligiuiri said in the Sunday edition of the Summit Daily News, “An easement is a contract to not subdivide or develop a property in perpetuity … with the intent of preserving conservation values forever.”
During my decade-plus with Wells Fargo, much of my work was in the estate planning arena. I worked with four organizations and families in establishing conservation easements. All were done with a great deal of thought, caution and planning.
Working with the client’s advisers, we researched settled case law to ensure that an easement with similar circumstances hadn’t been overturned by a court somewhere in the United States. Sometimes heirs or an organization will attempt to void an easement for their own purposes. All parties signed a notarized document that they understood the consequences. It was irrevocable and permanent. There are no “do-overs” ever.
It would be a horrible precedent to allow the county to set aside its own easement for any reason. Other entities could cite this to do the same. If this county board does this, what prevents a future board from overturning any decision it makes today? Where would this end with assurance that a decision is a decision? In this uncertain age, we need to have faith government will honor a commitment and not invoke a “weasel clause” when so moved.
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