Planners look at ‘invisible’ home |

Planners look at ‘invisible’ home

PITKIN COUNTY It looks good for a controversial mega-home planned on McLain Flats Road – because the new incarnation of the house will be “invisible” – according to planners.After negotiations with the Woody Creek caucus planning commission, Stephen and Joan Smith hope to build a 13,250-square-foot home planners say will not obstruct mountain views from McLain Flats Road toward Snowmass.”What we’ve done is work very closely with the caucus and made some major changes,” said Stan Clauson, a planner with the project. “Taken together I think we’ve worked out a program that will make the house invisible from McLain Flats Road.”The Smith’s originally applied to use four transferable development rights to build a 15,000-square-foot home on the 21-acre site, Clauson said.But after complaints from neighbors, including representatives of the W/J Ranch and nearby Woody Creek residents, the application stalled, Clauson said.The Smith’s revised application will go before the hearing officer again July 17.”We’ve had a couple of productive meetings with the caucus,” Smith said. “My wife and I have had a home here for 35 years; we’re not outsiders. Nobody cares about the view up there more than we do. It’s why we bought the property,” Smith said. “We happen to have a large family – five children and five grandchildren – and we need a home that works size-wise for our family. There are some people in the county who just don’t like big homes, period.”And while Smith is encouraged by his discussions with the caucus, he stressed the application for the project still has plenty of hoops to jump through at the county.”We’re trying to do something that works for the community and also works for the homeowners,” said Charles Cunniffe, the project architect. “It’s a very sensitive lot, and we want to do something sensitive for that reason.”Cunniffe said he’s hoping for the support of the Woody Creek Caucus, and said the only way to do that is making the house “an example” of TDR use and efficiency.Cunniffe stressed the home will not only be invisible from the road, but will be heated with geo-thermal heat and be built of recycled materials.Clauson said a substantial portion of the home will be underground, and by reducing the size and lowering the height of the proposed home, as well as drafting a landscaping plan that includes low shrubs instead of tall blue spruce, the house will not affect the view and will leave a large area of “pristine” irrigated pasture along the roadside.”At the end of the day we want it to be a love-fest. We want everyone to love what we’re doing,” Cunniffe said.”The Smiths have gone to great lengths to try to be neighborly. I think they’ve gone above and beyond,” Clauson said, adding not only does the couple want to appease neighbors and gain approval, “They don’t want to be regarded as ugly neighbors.”And Clauson stressed the couple earned no special treatment: “The caucus has been very firm about their goals. They’re no push-overs.””It is a big house, and that is the final objection of some people,” said Michael Owsley, chairman of the Pitkin County Board of County Commissioners and a Woody Creek resident. But Owsley commended the Smiths for working with the caucus.”They will have most likely a letter of approval from the Woody Creek Caucus. That should make everyone rest easier,” Owsley said, adding the Smiths took pains to allay their neighbors’ worries.”It’s sort of an iconic view for a lot of people,” Owsley said. “I think that you take beauty for granted around here and all of the sudden somebody has bought it.”But by taking advantage of the area’s topography and building a one-story home behind a land mass, the Smiths have a design that will preserve the “iconic” view of Capitol Peak and Mount Daly from McLain Flats, Owsley said.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is

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