County takes up house dispute
September 8, 2008
ASPEN ” An Aspen couple are battling with their neighbors over plans to “scrape and replace” a house that apparently was built without a permit, is bigger than is allowed by current zoning laws, and is linked to a history of troubled development approvals from local government.
Neal Beidleman, whose name became famous when he was part of an ill-fated Mount Everest expedition in 1996 in which 12 climbers died, owns the property.
The house is in the Ardmore subdivision on Aspen’s east side, along with an adjacent vacant lot that Beidleman also owns.
Beidleman and his wife, Amy, bought an existing 2,800-square-foot house and the lot in 1996 for $695,000, according to records at the Pitkin County building department. The home exceeds the allowable size of houses in that neighborhood, which is slightly more than 1,800 square feet, according to a memo to the Pitkin County commissioners from county zoning enforcement officer Joanna Schaffner.
The existing house was built in 1973, according to Schaffner’s memo, which indicates that there is no record of a building permit for the house on file. Schaffner also reported in her memo that there were no restrictions on house sizes in the neighborhood at that time, and that the building staff “assumed therefore, that the house was fully constructed prior to the adoption of a floor area ratio [regulation]” in 1974.
The owner before the Beidlemans also tried to build a garage but was hit with a stop-work order while trying to build a wall without a permit. A permit for the construction of walls less than 6 feet high was issued in 1990, but not for a roof, and in 1996 a second stop-work order was issued when he tried to install a roof without the proper permits.
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The country ordered that the roof be disassembled, and it was removed in 1996. The garage walls stood without a roof until 1998, when the Beidlemans won permission to complete the structure.
The Beidlemans are hoping to tear down the existing house and replace it with a new house of the same size, a proposal that has drawn mixed reviews from neighbors.
A building permit for the project was issued in June of this year, but that permit will be reviewed today by the county commissioners.
At least two of the neighbors, Gordon MacAlpine and Rosemary Bilchak, have filed formal objections, arguing that the house already is out of compliance with the law and that the county should not give its approval to replace it with another non-conforming building.
Although Schaffner’s memo contains no recommendation either for or against approval of the Beidlemans’ plans, it does state that “notice was issued to the Beidlemans that the issuance of [their] building permit … is being reviewed by the [commissioners] and that there is potential risk in proceeding with construction.”