Pitco grapples with Smuggler home request
Pitkin County commissioners are once again taking a close look at the future of Smuggler Mountain – although this time it’s because of one specific building application.Much of the face of Smuggler Mountain has been rezoned to restrict homes to no larger than 2,500 square feet on 35-acre parcels, or 3,500 square feet with special circumstances. Commissioners voted to rezone the face of the mountain above 8,200 feet at their Jan. 26 meeting, although they agreed that any potential developers with applications already going through the planning department would be dealt with under the old zoning rules.The first such application landed in front of commissioners at their Feb. 9 meeting. Smuggler Ridge Associates LLC and landowner Tulasi Wilkinson want to build a 8,250-square-foot home on a seven-acre parcel between one of Smuggler Mountain Road’s switchbacks. Since their plans were in the process of heading through the planning department, the zoning in this area will remain at AFR-10, meaning they can seek approval for one 5,750 square foot home, or a total of 15,000 square feet after going through a special review process.But commissioners on Wednesday were reluctant to grant a large home on a mountain that is highly used by hikers and bikers and is extremely visible from town.The county’s planning department recommended denial of the application, citing a number of different concerns.Pitkin County senior planner Suzanne Wolff told the board the residence is not entirely incompatible with the master plan for the east end of Aspen, but she said staff feels the home’s size “changes the character of the area,” and represents development creeping up the side of Smuggler Mountain.The applicants also proposed to change the classification of Smuggler Mountain Road up to the home from “limited” to “low,” meaning that more road maintenance would be needed. Although the applicants offered to make the road improvements themselves, the public works department was uncertain about approving increased maintenance on the road.The applicants, including developer Doug Dotson, argued that the bulk of the home could be concealed behind a ridge line. Dave Myler, also with Smuggler Ridge Associates, said since nearby homes in that area are 8,600 and 7,300 square feet, he feels a 8,250-square-foot home is appropriate in the area.He also said the developers are interested in mitigating construction traffic on the road and will work to use landscaping to screen the home from hikers and bikers. Commissioner Dorothea Farris said she was surprised developers are interested in improving Smuggler Mountain Road, since it could mean building costly retaining walls and ditches. In addition, Commissioner Jack Hatfield said his impression of the east of Aspen master plan is that visual impacts are “of the utmost importance,” and that it may be impossible to effectively hide a home of 8,250 square feet on that portion of the mountain.Temple Glassier of Pitkin County public works said Smuggler Mountain Road is one of the most difficult roads in the county to snowplow. Improving the road for 700 feet would be costly for the county, she said.”My chief concern, having spent a lot of time on that road, is that the road has a lot of characteristics of being a community asset,” said Commissioner Mick Ireland. “I don’t want to see the character of the road change – 100 to 150 people hike up that road every day … You don’t see many of us running on Red Mountain Road.”But rather than deny the application altogether, meaning that the developers would have to make their applications comply with the new zoning regulations in the area, commissioners decided to continue the discussion until their March 9 meeting.Smuggler Ridge Associates will have a chance to tweak the application in the meantime.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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