New houses grab attention |

New houses grab attention

Tight construction of oversized homes is one of the complaints of neighbors living near the intersection of Dale and Park Avenue Wednesday July 7, 2004. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

The east side of Aspen has hardly gone untouched by the resort’s “starter castle” phenomenon, but some new houses going up on Park Avenue have grabbed the neighborhood’s attention.It’s the kind of development that gets the mayor’s phone ringing.”Everybody’s watching it. It keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Todd Shaver, an area resident. “It’s comical to me, how big these buildings are. The FAR on the property is going to be monstrously huge.”FAR, of course, is local planning jargon for floor-area ratio – the ratio of a building’s floor area to the size of its lot.The new homes likely feel like monsters, in part, because the property was so modestly utilized before the redevelopment began.

The parcel at the corner of Dale and Park avenues used to be occupied by a one-story, wood-frame home that had been converted into a duplex. The residence was surrounded by a large, grassy yard; it didn’t come close to gobbling up the FAR allowed on the lot.Now, that lot and two adjacent lots to the north are part of the Park-Dale Subdivision – slated for four homes and a caretaker unit on three lots where there were two homes on two lots. “Everybody’s kind of watching it and going ‘wow,'” said Ellen Marshall, who lives across Dale Avenue with her husband, Tom.”It’s just a lot of building. It’s what they’re allowed – some days, I’m more upset with the city,” she said. “It’s just amazing what they are allowed to put on this piece of property.”The city’s zoning allows two single-family detached homes on the largest lot, right on the corner of Park and Dale avenues. One three-bedroom home will measure about 3,500 square feet; a two-bedroom house will total 2,054 square feet, according to building permits filed with the city. A lap pool is planned between the two houses.The old house on the corner, now razed, measured about 2,700 square feet.

On the lot to the north, a 3,353-square-foot, four-bedroom home is under construction, including a detached two-car garage, partial basement and accessory dwelling. A lap pool is planned there, as well.Still to come is redevelopment on the northernmost lot, where a small bluish-gray, wood-frame house still sits.”I understand how [neighbors] feel,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud. “As time goes on, old houses are sold and new, bigger ones come in.”I understand that is going to happen in the older neighborhoods. Do I like it? What can I say?”Councilwoman Rachel Richard says it’s time the city again takes a look at its house-size caps. It was actually another east-side redevelopment proposal, on Gibson Avenue, that spurred her suggestion.At Gibson and South avenues, an existing home is to be demolished and the lot split into two parcels to accommodate two or three single-family homes or a single-family home and a duplex. The project involves one of the investors in the Park-Dale Subdivision.

Richards was mayor when the City Council narrowly pushed through controversial new house-size caps in 2000 that also included a complex volume calculation to limit bulk. She supported the new controls, but they were scrapped less than a year later by a new council, after Klanderud succeeded Richards as mayor.The new caps were supposed to curb the construction of homes that dwarfed neighboring residences, but architects and city staffers concluded the onerous volume calculations wouldn’t produce the intended results.”Are they [council members] happy with the house sizes that we’ve seen played out over the last couple of years?” Richards mused. “I’m just saying, maybe it’s time for review.”The bigger question I think people could legitimately ask is, is it too late to save the character of these neighborhoods?” she said. “Are you just punishing the last guy left who hasn’t redeveloped yet?”The council is scheduled to review the city’s residential design standards, which Councilman Tim Semrau suggested could be used to address “overpowering” houses back when the council scrapped the 2000 house-size caps. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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