Proposed Aspen Mountain cabin remains in limbo
No one ever said building a cabin on the backside of Aspen Mountain would be easy.
That is the lesson a couple who live in Vail but have long-standing ties to the Aspen area learned Wednesday when Pitkin County commissioners continued their application to build the 1,000-square-foot cabin for the second time in six weeks.
Including Wednesday’s nearly four-hour session, commissioners have heard about eight hours worth of information about the proposed cabin, which would be built on a mining claim near the intersection of Richmond Hill Road and Little Annie’s Road.
However, for a majority of commissioners that was not enough to make a decision on the project, which has been vigorously opposed by a family who owns a long-standing cabin uphill from it. Four of the five commissioners voted Wednesday to continue the application and schedule a site visit to the property in the near future to get a better idea of the impacts.
Emily and Mike Kloser want to build the cabin on a 7.7-acre parcel in the highly restrictive Rural and Remote zoning district, which only allows a maximum of 1,000-square-foot dwellings. They want to build the cabin, a shed, solar panels and a septic system in a stand of mature conifer trees they say will shield it all from view of the cabin above.
Emily Kloser’s father, John Miller, is the longtime owner of property in the Little Annie’s Basin.
Marcella Larsen, whose family has owned the A-frame cabin above the parcel where the Klosers want to build, elicited testimony in February and on Wednesday from family members, an engineer and a real estate appraiser about why that shouldn’t happen.
Those reasons include the Klosers’ lack of access to the property, view plane intrusions during both day and night, a smaller than usual parcel for the zoning area and an alleged 25 percent drop in valuation to the Larsen property if the Kloser cabin is built, according to testimony Wednesday. Larsen also said she thinks a decision to approve the Kloser cabin would set off rampant land speculation in Rural and Remote areas.
“Neighbor-to-neighbor disputes are the worst of all,” Commissioner Rachel Richards said. “Both parties have rights in this situation.”
Richards said she could see both sides of the issue and mused that the Klosers’ development application could go either way.
Commissioner Steve Child suggested a site visit, which was supported by Richards, Commissioner Greg Poschman and Board Chairwoman Patti Clapper.
Commissioner George Newman, however, disagreed with his colleagues. He pointed out that the Klosers would have three years to figure out the access issues if commissioners approve the cabin, and that the area is already full of cabins and nonconforming lots.
“This is not an extraordinary request,” Newman said. “It’s a 1,000-square-foot cabin. I don’t need a site visit.”
Nonetheless, commissioners hope to schedule a site visit by April 25, even if conditions on the ground are not exactly conducive to it.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”