Home-size issue riles Redstone residents
Aspen Times Staff Writer
A Redstone couple who argued last week that they can barely fit in their 1,800-square-foot home didn’t find any sympathy from County Commissioner Patti Clapper.
The couple, Donna and Ron Thompson, were among a half dozen Redstone residents who showed up in Aspen last Tuesday to protest proposed zoning changes for the historic district of their former mining community.
Donna Thompson said their house has been for sale for three years with no real offers.
“It’s too small to live in,” she said. “Every potential buyer has said it would be nice for a two-month-a-year cabin,” but not a full-time residence.
She said that it would be nice if the house could be expanded to a size that meets the expectations of people buying homes.
The Thompsons live in a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home built in 1902, according to a real estate sales flyer introduced during the discussion. There is a guest house on the property. It’s been listed for as much as $790,000.
Thompson said she and her husband get by in their limited space ? the living room is just 12 feet by 12 feet ? because they live alone and are neat and organized.
“I’m sorry,” Clapper interjected, “but I just have to say that my place is only 800 square feet, there are four of us living in it, and we aren’t particularly neat and organized.”
Clapper lives with her family in a trailer at the Smuggler Trailer Park in Aspen.
“I admit it’s tight,” she continued, addressing the Thompsons’ concerns, “but we can’t zone this area based on people’s desired lifestyles.”
@ATD Sub heds:Living under a moratorium
@ATD body copy: The historic district of Redstone has been living under a development moratorium since last May.
The moratorium was enacted at the suggestion of County Commissioner Shellie Roy.
Roy and her colleagues thought it was a good idea to give county staff the time it needed to propose amendments that clarify some of the development rules that have sharply divided Crystal River Valley residents.
Roy’s moratorium does contain a provision that allows people to apply for an exemption.
Lance Clarke, Pitkin County’s deputy director of community development, said so far one family has applied for an exemption. It was approved because their home fit in with the scale and size of other buildings in Redstone’s historic district.
Scale and size are what the moratorium, land-use code amendments and divisions in the community are all about.
Clarke said members of the Redstone Historic Preservation Commission approached the commissioners last spring, asking for clarification about floor area limits in Redstone.
As with most neighborhoods in Pitkin County, pressure has been growing to allow larger homes than the 1,000- to 2,000-square-foot size that fill Redstone. Clarke said the rules as they currently stand have allowed people to apply for as much as 3,500 to 4,000 square feet.
A few larger homes have been built within the historic zone, but the historic preservation commission has become increasingly reluctant to approve applications that result in significantly larger homes.
The historic preservation commission can deny development applications in residential and commercial areas if they don’t fit in with the historic character of the town.
The issue came to a head earlier this year when the commission denied an application by Martin Fiala to build a home that the majority of historic preservation commissioners felt was out of scale with the community. The moratorium was enacted shortly thereafter.
County staff members presented a first draft of proposed amendments for zoning in Redstone to residents last month.
The changes, as initially proposed, would eliminate altogether rules that allow larger lots to have larger buildings.
A maximum size of 1,500 square feet would apply for all principal structures, commercial or residential, and 300 or 500 square feet for out buildings depending on the property’s location. The maximum height of all new buildings would be reduced to 24 feet.
“Yes, we’re reducing floor area, but we’re giving benefits to Redstone property owners that they don’t currently have,” Clarke said.
The proposed amendments would also exempt the entire historic district in Redstone from the county’s tough environmental regulations on development in flood plains. Much of the historic town lies within the flood plain of the Crystal River.
Larger lots could be subdivided into smaller lots without having to go through the standard review process. And nonconforming uses, such as the larger houses that have been built in recent years, will not be affected.
Some changes are likely before the proposed amendments are sent to the county planning and zoning commission to begin the public review process. The maximum height will probably be a little higher than 24 feet, and larger buildings will likely be allowed in areas zoned village commercial, where home-based businesses are allowed to operate.
“The community felt that 1,500 square feet plus a 500-square-foot accessory building was not viable as a living and working space,” Clarke said. “We definitely heard them and think we do need to make some changes.”
Clarke said the amendments could be in front of the county commissioners for a final decision in February or March.
@ATD Sub heds:Size remains an issue
@ATD body copy: The Thompsons weren’t the only ones protesting at Tuesday’s meeting with the county commissioners.
Billy Amicon, who owns a large lot in the historic district, said he thought the county’s effort to preserve the historic character of Redstone overlooked the fact that the history of the town, and the buildings in it, has changed considerably over the last 110 years.
He pointed out that Redstone is a former mining community that used to have working mines, trains and all the residents needed to make it work. “Ninety percent of historic Redstone is already gone,” he said.
A few other landowners also raised their objections to the proposal. And Donna Thompson got in a final few words.
“You’re stealing at least $100,000 from the resale price of this property,” she said to the commissioners.
“And $100,000 from his and hers,” she added, pointing to her neighbors in the room.
[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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