Property owners sue Pitkin County over house rejection
June 10, 2011
ASPEN – The developers of a proposed 15,000-square-foot house in Maroon Creek Valley are suing Pitkin County and its board of commissioners for limiting the size of the proposed project.
Celestial Land Co. Ltd.’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday night in Pitkin County District Court, contends the board abused its “discretion, acted arbitrarily and capriciously and acted outside their scope of authority” by denying Celestial’s application for the use of three transferable development rights, or TDRs, to increase the size of the house from 8,250 square feet to 15,000 square feet.
Celestial Land Co., which is based on Colorado, owns a 35-acre, undeveloped parcel of property north of Maroon Creek Road. Its proposed house is called The Eagle’s Nest.
The rejection was handed down May 9 during a five-hour appeals hearing held at the commissioners’ meeting room.
While commissioners agreed to limit the size of the structure, they also voted 3-2 (Commissioners Jack Hatfield and Rob Ittner dissented) to remand the issue of the proposed homesite back to county hearing officer Jim True for further review to determine whether there’s a better spot to put the house to protect both its owners and neighbors from debris. Neighbors of the Celestial property have been vocally opposed to the development, contending that the potential for debris flows coming from the steep slopes would be heightened if the home were built.
Commissioners based their May 9 decision, in part, on the fact that True had denied the TDRs because the additional square footage was unreasonable on a site that is subject to debris hazards. The commissioners said that if the house were moved to a different site, then more square footage may be acceptable.
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The lawsuit, however, notes that other landowners have received approval to build homes up to 15,000 square feet in the same area that’s subject to debris flow. The suit identifies Tom and Margo Pritzker as receiving county approval to build 15,000-square-foot single-family home “along with a massive caretaker unit/barn complex and other associated outbuildings.”
“In the vicinity of the Celestial property, neighboring property owners have received approval from the county to construct, and have constructed, residences and structures on the same alluvial fan where Celestials’ property sits,” the suit says.
The suit asks the court to set aside the commissioners’ rejection of the TDRs, while ordering them to approve Celestial’s application.
County attorney John Ely said Thursday he had not seen the suit and declined to comment about it.