14,760 square feet in Carbondale?
CARBONDALE ” A River Valley Ranch house that was recently issued a building permit will set a new benchmark, coming in at about double the size of any house previously built at RVR, or anyplace else in Carbondale.
The Carbondale Building Department, after more than a month of review, on June 5 issued a building permit to John and Chris Blair for a 14,760-square-foot house at 60 Patterson Drive, located on the Perry Ridge portion of the more than 600-house golf course subdivision.
The two-story house with a basement will have about 13,300 square feet of actual living space (excluding the garage). Still, that’s about double size of the typical RVR house ” a precedent that has raised at least a few red flags and has sparked some talk about a size cap on houses, similar to Pitkin County’s so-called “monster house” ordinance, which limits residences to no more than 15,000 square feet.
The Blair house permit application, submitted April 29, was subject to a more lengthy review by both town building officials and RVR’s own Design Review Committee, before it was deemed in compliance and granted.
“When we first got the plans, the way it was labeled it looked like they had an accessory dwelling unit in addition to the main house,” Carbondale Community Development Director Doug Dotson said. Then they realized it was all one house, though rather unique, to say the least.
“We called RVR and asked, ‘Is this what you guys want?’ And they issued a letter to that effect,” Dotson said. “As long as it comes into compliance with our building code and the [relatively new] town energy code, then there’s nothing to say they can’t build a house that big.”
As for RVR’s review, as long as the house met the “Ranch vernacular” design standards and wasn’t overly obtrusive, it passed muster, RVR Houseowners Association Executive Director Chip Munday said.
“It had to adhere to the same restrictions as any other house here,” he said. “The only thing we ran into was, just because of the size, it took a lot longer than normal to review the application.
“There was special consideration for how it would affect the neighbors,” Munday said. “We worked with the architect on the design features to make the house appealing from every side.”
Still, it will change the view of the houseowners located below the ridge, he acknowledged.
Stan Kleban, a former town Planning and Zoning Commission member, is one of those whose views of Mount Sopris will be obscured by the new house.
“The problem I have is it’s terribly long, and it sits up on a bluff, (and) because of its size obstructs the views of Sopris,” said Kleban, who resides at 110 Shadowood Lane, in the cul-de-sac just below the bluff where the new house will be built.
Kleban said that, when he bought his lot, he was shown what he thought was a protected view easement to the south. However, the view easement was never recorded as part of the plat, so there’s no legal recourse, he said.
“I just don’t think a 10,000-square-foot house is in keeping with this area,” he said.
But the architect who is designing the Blair house said special care was taken to minimize the impact on the surrounding neighborhood, and to achieve the town’s energy efficiency standards.
Glenwood Springs architect Brad Jordan, who has designed more than 40 other houses at RVR, said the Blair house will feature a bridge going across a natural drainage that splits the building lot, connecting the main part of the house with the guest quarters.
The lot actually had two designated building envelopes due to the drainage. So, the idea was to make use of both building envelopes via the connecting bridge, he said.
But, the overall size of the structure did require some specific design elements in order to meet the town’s energy efficiency requirements, and to minimize the impact on the surrounding houses at RVR.
“One thing we are attempting to do is stay completely off the grid for our electricity needs, with the use of photovoltaics,” Jordan said. “If you can create a house at that size that can energize itself, that’s really what the goal was,” he added. “We are making it as green as possible, within reason. There are some houses there that are over 10,000 feet, and have no solar or no green building whatsoever.”
But some, including Carbondale Trustee Frosty Merriott, are concerned that a nearly 15,000-square-foot house sets a dangerous precedent on multiple fronts.
For one, if a house that size can meet the town’s energy code, then maybe the code itself needs some more tweaking, because the sheer size would seem to run counter to the goals of reducing one’s carbon footprint, he said.
“Philosophically, I have real concerns with building what amounts to a 15,000-square-foot structure in the middle of mostly 5,000-square-foot houses,” said Merriott, who also lives at RVR. “This affects the small town character and scale issue in River Valley Ranch as well as Carbondale and sets an alarming precedent.”
A positive outcome of the experience may be that it showed some “glaring weaknesses” in Carbondale’s Green Building Code, he said.
His other concern is simply the precedent of such a large house.
“There are another 10 lots or so at RVR that would hold a house that size,” Merriott said. “So, does that mean the next person that builds will want to build an even bigger house? I don’t want to see us get into that.”
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