County may loosen R&R restrictions on rural home size |

County may loosen R&R restrictions on rural home size

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County may tinker with its restrictive backcountry zoning to allow larger houses where they aren’t permissible now.The Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday directed staffers to draft amendments to the Rural and Remote zoning code that would accommodate a plan to build a 2,400-square-foot house on the back of Aspen Mountain.Castle Creek Investors, Inc., owner of considerable acreage in Little Annie Basin, submitted a plan two years ago to use transferable development rights (TDRs) from two parcels in the Little Annie area on a third parcel. CCI wants to build a house of 2,400 square feet on one mining claim, located in the Rural and Remote zone district, where the maximum house size allowed is 1,000 square feet.Until now, TDRs have been limited to use in urban and suburban areas of the county. Aggregation of TDRs on a Rural and Remote parcel is allowed by the county’s code, but only under special review, with two TDRs adding 800 and 600 square feet respectively to the allowable 1,000-square-foot floor area.TDRs were established to protect backcountry parcels by allowing rural landowners to sever the development rights from their Rural and Remote lands and sell them for use elsewhere, preventing development in the backcountry.Prompted by the BOCC, CCI submitted an overall plan for all of the corporation’s holdings in the Little Annie area. That plan calls for clustering of six new 1,000-square-foot cabins near the ridge of the mountain along with two so-called aggregations, where TDRs would be used to boost the size of houses to more than 1,000 square feet.But but the plan actually calls for much less development than the owner might qualify for without the clustering and aggregation of TDRs. An alternate plan, which was also submitted, indicates CCI could dot the basin with 16 1,000-square-foot cabins, each on parcels of 35 acres or more.With the aggregation of TDRs and the clustering of cabins, the developer claims the whole development could preserve 400 developable acres.But the plan can’t be carried out without changes to the Rural and Remote zoning code. First, aggregation is not now allowed in a subalpine environment, and county biologists have classified the site, which is above 9,000 feet in elevation, as subalpine. Second, the Enough claim is too small to be a receiving site for TDRs under the present code. Third, the road that provides access to the mining claim crosses hazard zones, also forbidden by code.The board, with Mick Ireland absent, was divided on which is less desirable in the backcountry – more cabins or larger houses. Commissioner Shellie Roy Harper said she didn’t want to see a lot of roofs from the mountain ridge, and said two 1,000-square-foot cabins have more impact than one 2,000-square-foot house. Commissioner Dorothea Farris agreed, but Patti Clapper said 1,000-square-foot houses foster a certain type of lifestyle which she wants to support.BOCC Chairwoman Leslie Lamont said she wants to see each application for aggregation in the context of how much land would be sterilized by removal of TDRs. “I don’t want somebody to be able to aggregate three 35-acre parcels and get a 2,400-square-foot house with only 70 acres being preserved,” Lamont said. She said the county’s objective should be to preserve a significant part of the landscape, not just 35 acres at a time.At a December BOCC discussion on the subject, Ireland opposed the aggregation of TDRs on the Enough claim. He noted that a 2,400-square-foot second home would likely create more activity in the area, with traffic created by service industry employees driving to the larger house.CCI President John Miller voiced impatience with the length of the process. “I feel like I could get kind of sensitive about this if I wasn’t so concerned about preserving the back of the mountain,” Miller said.

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