Andlinger admits building violations
March 13, 2002
East Coast financier Gehard Andlinger admitted yesterday that he violated the law last year while building a luxury home at the edge of the wilderness.
Andlinger has agreed to post a bond to cover the cost of restoring a sloping field that was flattened out by crews working on his East Sopris Creek estate. The bond, which will likely require Andlinger to cough up hundreds of thousands of dollars, will also cover restoration costs related to a water line trench that Andlinger dug without a permit.
Andlinger’s admission ends a confrontation that began late last summer when the county public works department issued a stop-work order, or red tag, after discovering numerous violations of the building and land-use approval permits.
Andlinger’s decision to fight the county’s demand that he restore the field and repair the wetlands forced the county commissioners to take on a quasi-judicial role in what is believed to be the first-ever permit revocation hearing.
If Andlinger had carried his fight to the bitter end, he could have had his original building permit revoked by the commissioners and been ordered to take his new house down, according to County Attorney John Ely. Instead, after two long hearings that featured finger-pointing by some of the most recognizable names in the local development industry, Andlinger folded.
Andlinger, who owns a highly regarded investment firm, will be required to come up with a restoration plan and post bond to cover the estimated costs. Once he does that, the county will lift the red tag, according to the terms of the agreement approved by the Board of County Commissioners at a special meeting yesterday.
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Andlinger owns a 152-acre parcel near the Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness Area. Even though the land is located on the banks of East Sopris Creek, it is accessed off Capitol Creek Road above the Child Ranch.
Andlinger and his family received permits to build a 7,500-square-foot home at the bottom of a gently sloping hill in 2000. The project was nearly completed in the spring of 2001 when things began to go awry.
Roofing crews, working under the direction of prime contractor Norris Homes, installed shake singles in direct violation of the county’s wildfire rules and the approval permit. Then work on two ponds along the side of the house spilled outside the approved construction area, again in violation of the approvals.
Neither of those issues alone were responsible for the stir, however. The real problems began first when Andlinger decided he wanted water from a spring instead of two wells next to the house, and then when the gently sloping field in front of his house was flattened to improve the view from his living room.
Crews, again under the direction of Norris Homes, began digging the trench and removing the hill in late spring.
Flattening the hill required the removal of 10,000 cubic yards of dirt – 1,000 dump trucks full of dirt, by one estimate. Laying the water lines and construction of a water tank on the hill above Andlinger’s house required heavy trench-digging equipment to cut through wetlands and the riparian habitat, across the creek and up a steep sage-covered hillside.
Andlinger and his crews performed both jobs without permits. His attorney, Tom Smith, and representatives from Norris Homes claimed the excavation in the field was done under an agricultural exemption, although no such exemption exists in Pitkin County.
Even more troublesome for county officials was the fact that work on the water line continued even after everyone on the site knew a permit had not been granted. Yesterday’s agreement, which Andlinger is required to sign before it goes into effect, states, “It was evident that plans for the water system were developed months in advance of the actual violations.”
Once Andlinger meets the financial conditions of the agreement, he will be allowed to apply for permits to remove the hill and lay a water line to the spring. If the permits are granted, he will be refunded his money; if not, he will be required to follow the restoration plan.
The commissioners yesterday said Andlinger’s decision to accept responsibility for the situation made the agreement possible.