Trailside residents upset over construction of new home
September 4, 2015
Several Trailside residents say they were shocked to see an enormous excavation project taking place on the scenic ridgeline near their neighborhood. The work is taking place on a lot along Silver Sage Drive in Highland Estates, but is clearly visible from Trailside.
Russ Reiss, a member of the Trailside Homeowner’s Association is leading a charge on behalf of his neighbors to challenge the county’s decision that allowed the project to go forward.
"We’ve all known that there is buildable land up there along that ridge and in that area.
The whole hillside is private land and has a certain development density, but all of sudden in the last couple of weeks there is a huge excavation going on on that ridge," Reiss said. "If you look anywhere you see this massive excavation going on in this ridge. We thought they were digging a normal size project, but they just dug and dug and dug for the first few days and dug a gigantic hole and that’s what got us fired up."
Reiss and other members of the Trailside Homeowners Association recently met with several Summit County officials to discuss the legality of the project and its impacts on their viewshed. Summit County Attorney Robert Hilder, Development Director Pat Putt, Planning and Zoning Administrator Peter Barnes, as well as council members Chris Robinson and Claudia McMullin attended the meeting.
"No one is telling them they shouldn’t build their house. That is not what we are concerned about," Reiss said. "We are really just concerned about responsible development. Most people in that area are really upset about the doubling of the disturbance area on a ridgeline. It’s appalling."
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The property is described in a staff report as a semi-rectangular six-acre parcel encompassing the hill. The applicant is building a home in an area that planning officials say is the "least intrusive" location on the parcel. The applicant had originally proposed to build his home on the highest point of the lot, but that request that was denied by county staff in 2014.
Last spring, the applicant resubmitted his design and proposal, while also requesting an expanded disturbance area because of the new location. The Board of Adjustments approved his variance request to double the size of the area from 20,000 square feet to approximately 43,000 square feet. The Board of Adjustments held a public hearing, in which more than 90 notices were sent out to residents, according to Peter Barnes, Summit County Planning and Zoning administrator, no comments were received.
During the meeting, county officials explained the process and the scrutiny the project went through. At times, the discussion between Reiss and county officials became very heated.
"They are saying we have no options. We missed the public hearing and our right to appeal," Reiss said. "The public is mad because they doubled a variance on a ridgeline and they didn’t get our input. We don’t understand how they were granted the variance."
County Councilman Chris Robinson said the volume on the conversation was "up a bit," but he didn’t think it was counterproductive. Robinson said the entire situation is unfortunate because some residents wanted to participate in the process, but never had the chance because they were outside of the notice requirement.
"Maybe we need to expand our notice further, I don’t know," Robinson said. "And if they did get to participate the outcome may have been identical or there may have been some conditions. It’s just unfortunate."
Barnes said Reiss insinuated the county violated the noticing requirements.
"We basically got yelled at for an hour," Barnes said. "Yes it is a large house. Yes it is visible. But the staff worked extremely hard within the code and limitations of our powers that we have to manipulate and mold the application to what, I believe, to be the better result in terms of visual impacts and excavation and everything."
Barnes said the applicant was required to go through "an extraordinary level of scrutiny" to receive approval for the construction, adding a balanced was struck between disturbances and visual impacts.
‘We were not uncomfortable with the process we went through," Barnes said. "The concerns raised are legitimate, but not a valid criticism. It seems to be that because this is dominant in the visual range of Trailside they were surprised to see this work occurring. But Trailside was outside of the noticing and we cannot guess that someone may or may not be impacted more than someone else."
There are properties in similar situations in other areas of the county, Barnes said, adding that people will see more development on lots they may have thought were vacant.
"People who have been here for less than five years don’t understand the boom and bust that is perking up," Barnes said. "There are old lots that people look out on and assume they are vacant parcels they are not necessarily the case. But as this occurs, please don’t get angry with the building or county department if the owner exercises personal property rights."