McLain Flats berm causes concern | AspenTimes.com

McLain Flats berm causes concern

Charles Agar
Aspen, CO Colorado

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

WOODY CREEK ” A 10-foot wall of dirt along McLain Flats Road near Woody Creek has residents and county officials concerned.

But planners for Stephen and Joan Smith’s 10,750-square-foot home ” a project many called “invisible” because it is tucked behind a raised berm ” said crews will flatten the pile of dirt in coming days.

On Monday, a number of commuters passing the 21-acre construction site called county officials to complain about graders stacking dirt to block the iconic view of Capitol Peak and Snowmass. Lance Clarke, Pitkin County’s assistant director for community development, also called the project’s planners to ask about the grading work.

“That’s just temporary storage,” said Tom Newland, a planner with the home project. “They expect they’ll have everything flattened out there in a couple of days.”

More than one-half of the Smiths’ land will be placed in a conservation easement, and the berm will be smoothed out into a sloping alfalfa field with a grade just high enough to hide the one-story house without blocking the view, Newland said.

“It always looks bad when you get going,” Newland said, adding that people should judge the final product, not the process.

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Planners chose to use graders and store dirt on site instead of trucking it elsewhere, Newland said.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” Newland said. “That’s the only place to move it.”

But the topsoil is easy to move, and crews are already busy breaking down the berm.

The temporary berm is within the building envelope for the project, Clarke said, but the proposed conservation easement will not allow the builder to use the land as a construction staging area.

The conservation easement will go to a vote with Pitkin County commissioners this week, Clarke said.

“There’s been an enormous amount of concern in the community,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley.

On smaller projects, builders cart dirt off-site. But moving that much dirt off the 21-acre site could mean a parade of trucks through Woody Creek, Owsley said.

“What is important to the community is that stretch of green and the view,” Owsley said. “[The berm] shocked a lot of people.”

Owsley stressed the dirt is only there temporarily.

Woody Creek Caucus members received a number of calls about the project, according to Phil Holstein, a member of the Woody Creek Caucus planning commission.

“The berm is going to be totally unnoticeable when it gets built,” Holstein said, adding that crews are simply raising the level of the meadow.

“While it’s being done, it does look alarming,” Holstein said.

Charles Agar’s e-mail address is cagar@aspentimes.com.