Aspen home, dubbed ‘Stonehenge,’ draws ire of neighbors
November 28, 2009
ASPEN – A home under construction near the Rio Grande Trail in Aspen has become the poster child for neighborhood disruption and has prompted city officials to change how it grants approval for such activity.
Dubbed “Stonehenge” by some city officials, the facade of the 11,600-square-foot home is made almost entirely of glass and stone, the latter of which has spurred complaints from “irritated” neighbors for the past two years.
That’s because the estimated 100,000 pieces of stone had to be hand-cut on site, causing disruption and dust around the construction zone.
But the work was in accordance with city regulations, which requires construction noise not to exceed 80 decibels.
“In reality we were compliant the whole time,” said project manager Chris Madigan, adding he has met with city engineers about 20 times on site and once with Aspen City Council members. “We were consistently underneath the decibel level.”
Because the contractor, David Lambert Construction, was in compliance, the city engineering department’s hands were tied in trying to remedy what was perceived to be a problem by neighbors.
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“They were able to do it, oddly enough, within our requirements,” Aaron Reed, the city’s construction mitigation officer, told the City Council on Tuesday.
Madigan said city officials asked him to find solutions but none could be found. The city determined that nothing could be done because the municipal code doesn’t address on-site manufacturing activities.
But it soon will, as directed by the council this past week.
One of the issues with the 17 Shady Lane project is that it has lasted for more than two years with constant stone cutting.
“It’s definitely a unique project,” Madigan said, adding the stones had to be fit like a puzzle, which required all four sides of each stone to be cut.
“I don’t want to do it again,” he joked. “Thank God, it’s over.”
Well, nearly over – the project is scheduled to be completed in February. There is still some masonry work to be done and the house is nearly 100 percent covered in stone.
While it’s a unique project, created by local architect Charles Cunniffe, the council doesn’t want to see a repeat.
On Tuesday, the council directed city engineer Trish Aragon to modify the municipal code to address on-site manufacturing activities – specifically reducing the decibel level to 65, as well as limiting the duration of the project both in terms of days and hours of operation.
“Eighty decibels is too high for consistent duration,” said Mayor Mick Ireland, who suggested 65 decibels. “People buy a house, move into a neighborhood, and they shouldn’t expect a stone-cutting plant next door.”
The council discussed prohibiting on-site manufacturing activities but come council members said it would be too difficult for construction workers to conduct their craft elsewhere.
“Doing this type of work off site and bringing it in is incredibly onerous,” Councilman Torre said.
Councilman Steve Skadron replied, “You know what is onerous? This type of disruption.”
Skadron added that the type of work that was required of the Shady Lane project needs to be addressed in the review process before it’s approved.
“This is unacceptable,” he said while looking at a photo of the project.
Councilman Dwayne Romero said prohibiting manufacturing activity wouldn’t differentiate between a small bathroom remodel in which a homeowner must cut tile on his or her property, or a massive, protracted project like the one on Shady Lane.
“This is crazy,” he said of the council’s initial discussion of prohibiting on-site manufacturing. “[The Shady Lane project] is an extreme example … let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Madigan said the project wouldn’t have been possible if the stone had to be cut somewhere else.
“Like I said, it was a puzzle,” he said. “We couldn’t have done it pre-fabricated.”
He added that on-site manufacturing is necessary for a lot of construction projects.
“It sounds like a great idea but the cost implications are too great,” Madigan said.
The home is owned by California-based Callwinne LLC, according to public records.