Pitkin County Open Space & Trails (OST) is seeking public input on the development of an agricultural structure on the Schoolhouse Lease Area of Emma Open Space. A survey link is provided at the bottom of this page (input will be accepted through April 25th).
Two Roots Farm has been awarded the lease for the South Lease Area and Schoolhouse Lease Area for a term of 10 years. Two Roots is planning on producing vegetables on the Schoolhouse Lease and will need access to a structure and utilities to clean, pack and store produce and for protection from the elements, cold storage, a hand-washing sink, seed storage, animal feed storage, tool and equipment storage, and office space.
Two Roots Farm is requesting an on-site structure to allow them to grow and supply their product to the community. Many public comments received through the Emma Open Space Management Plan process highlighted local agricultural, organic production, and young and beginning farmers. OST staff anticipated that infrastructure would be needed to fulfill this public desire and specifically addressed this in the management plan under section 4.2.2:
4.2.2 Agricultural Structures and Improvements Agricultural Structures - The conservation easement for Emma Open Space allows for the installation, repair and maintenance of water wells, irrigation systems, ponds, streams and irrigation ditches and agricultural outbuildings, such as a livestock or hay barns, tool sheds and greenhouses, with grantee approval. OST staff and the lessees will work with the Roaring Fork Conservancy (conservation easement grantee) to determine locations and allow the lessees to develop the listed improvements on their lease areas to fit their needs. Permanent improvements proposed by lessees may be cost-shared by OST on a case-by-case basis. Maintenance of improvements will be included in the lessee’s annual operating plan.
Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) will require producers at Two Roots Farm scale to comply with FSMA regulations starting in 2020. These provisions include safe and adequate sanitary water and buildings that “facilitate maintenance and sanitary operations”, i.e. washable surfaces and adequate drainage.
The structure and infrastructure needed for an organic produce operation and to comply with FSMA include a well, electricity, and barn. The well and electricity have already been approved since they will be utilized regardless of whether a permanent structure is built on the property. OST staff conceptually evaluated the structure for compliance with the guiding documents and found that the structure was not prohibited in the Conservation Easement overlaying the property and is allowed in the management plan. This type of development has never been pursued by the OST department or an agricultural lessee, and so, a public process is underway to get community input.
Since this development is an OST project, the normal path to having structures approved for development is a Location and Extent Review by the Pitkin County Community Development Department (Com Dev). The review process includes completing an application containing the details of the development and how the development complies with the Emma Master Plan. Com Dev staff reviews the application and makes a recommendation to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Planning and Zoning reviews the application and Com Dev staff findings to decide whether the Location and Extent is consistent with the Master Plan for the area. Based on previous Location and Extent reviews completed by the OST department, it generally takes between 60 – 90 days to be approved from time the application is submitted.
Due to the uniqueness of the development, OST staff is now engaged in this public process prior to the Location and Extent process. OST has developed additional materials, located below, to help with assessing the development. While the public comment period is open, OST staff will provide an update to the Open Space and Trails Board at its April 5th regular meeting. The board will meet at 9 a.m. at the Open Space and Trails office conference room at 806 W. Hallam St., Aspen. Staff would be happy to personally present these options to any individual or group before the close of this process; contact Paul Holsinger (contact info provided below) to arrange a presentation.
Once the public process is complete, the Location and Extent application will be completed for the supported improvements. The final step would be approval from the Open Space Board and Pitkin County Commissioners to allow construction of the structure in the location determined through the process.
Three (3) options are being assessed for the Schoolhouse Lease Area include;
Option A - Structure located parallel the irrigated field and located within the lease area.
Option B - Structure located to the east of the lease area in the Orchard Expansion - Potential Phase II area.
Option C - No Structure
The two development options are being presented and assessed due to their proximity to existing utilities and the low impact to the scenic values associated with the property. Other options will be assessed if necessary, such as off-site and temporary structures.