A neighbor’s complaint keeps a teacher from moving into home | AspenTimes.com

A neighbor’s complaint keeps a teacher from moving into home

Janet Urquhart

Ten inches are keeping an Aspen High School science teacher from home ownership in Five Trees, a new housing development next to the school campus.

The home, though its construction is complete, has been red-tagged by the city for exceeding the height limitation established as part of the development’s approval. Hines Resorts, developer of Five Trees and the nearby Aspen Highlands village, discovered the error after a neighbor in the adjacent Meadowood subdivision sued Hines over the height of several homes.

Judi Francis, a Heather Lane resident, filed a lawsuit last July against Hines, the city of Aspen and the school district, claiming seven homes in Five Trees exceed the 16-foot height limit set for the buildings. All seven homes, on Bus Barn Road, are employee housing. One is among the six houses in the development designated for Aspen School District employees.

The teacher’s house is the only one of the seven disputed homes that remains unoccupied, causing a bit of a headache for the school district, according to Superintendent Tom Farrell.

“Fortunately for the family, they are now living in the Woody Creek units that the school district owns,” Farrell said. “The frustration for me is we have another family wanting to move into the Woody Creek unit. It’s frustrating, quite frankly.”

Hines Resorts, meanwhile, plans to seek a variance from the city for the too-tall home and is hoping neighbors will be amenable to letting the house stand as is, according to Dwayne Romero, senior project manager for the company.

“We’re planning to ask the city for a variance as opposed to tearing the roof off,” he said. “Let’s face it, it would be a costly event to tear the roof off, flattening it so it’s 10 inches lower.”

Meanwhile, Hines is disputing the lawsuit’s claims that seven homes exceed the height limit. The company remeasured the height of the residences in response to the suit and concluded that all the homes are within the limit except the one that is 10 inches too tall.

Hines believes it has correctly interpreted the city code as it relates to calculating building height and that Robert Francis, husband of Judi Francis and her attorney in the case, has not, according to Romero.

“It’s our opinion, as well as the city’s, that he is incorrect in how he’s applying the building height definition,” Romero said.

The lawsuit, filed last July, claimed the seven homes – partially constructed at that point – exceeded 20 feet in height. A request for a temporary restraining order requiring the homes to conform to the correct height limit was denied in August by Judge T. Peter Craven; construction of the homes went forward without design alterations.

A settlement conference for the lawsuit is scheduled in April, according to Robert Francis.

The school district, meanwhile, has been told the teacher’s home will remain in limbo until at least spring, Farrell said.

Regarding that house, Romero said: “We are prepared to do what it takes.”

In all, Five Trees includes 40 free-market and 31 affordable housing homes. The subdivision, originally approved by Pitkin County as part of the Moore Family PUD, has since been annexed into the city of Aspen.

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