Breck to allow duplex; debate begins
BRECKENRIDGE – Steve Mc-Keever will get to build his 7,456-square-foot duplex, starting a new debate on building restrictions in Breckenridge.On Tuesday night, the Breckenridge Town Council members spent hours discussing the duplex, and if they could avoid certain restrictions for McKeever’s proposal. They had to choose between abiding by the previous council’s intention of “mimicking” the old county land use guidelines, or enforcing a required Breckenridge policy addressing density.McKeever’s property is located on Newengland Drive in Upper Warrior’s Mark, which was annexed to the town from the county in December 2002. McKeever, who lives up the road on White Cloud Drive, purchased his duplex lot after the annexation.The town staff supported his plans, but the planning commission denied his application with a 6-0 vote earlier this month, saying it would make the property too dense. He then asked the town council to make a decision in a “de novo” hearing, which requires all parties to present cases to the town council. The council then determines what will be allowed under town rules and guidelines.Tuesday, the council reversed the commission’s decision on the project with a 4-2 vote, with Councilmember Eric Mamula abstaining because he serves on the planning commission that denied the project earlier this month.The problem centered on town policy 3A, a required policy that addresses density. A mathematical formula associated with the policy takes a ratio of the lot size and compares it to the proposed building size. If that number exceeds five units per acre for a duplex, the rules change, and the builder can’t build a duplex larger than a 3,200-square-foot duplex.McKeever argued that his proposed duplex would be close in size to others in his neighborhood – although some neighbors said otherwise. But numbers gathered by town planners backed that up McKeever’s claim. Most of the town council members who sat on the previous council said they “clearly recalled” wanting to retain the character of the neighborhood by “mimicking” the county’s land use guidelines once the subdivision was annexed. Another goal was to minimize downzoning on all but four parcels so landowners could retain their building rights.Another goal was to bring buildings that don’t conform to town codes into code over time. The town created eight new land use districts (LUDs) of its own to address the eclectic subdivision. But each LUD comes with its own set of Land Use Guidelines (LUGs), including absolute policy 3A.McKeever and staff members maintain the policy shouldn’t apply, because it wasn’t discussed when the new LUDs were created.”Every memo, every presentation supports mimicking the county density,” McKeever said. “Everything said that. The primary function of this LUD is to be consistent with existing (homes). This will be smaller than anything else on the street. If 3A applies, this whole (concept) will be swept under the rug.”Opponents, including some neighbors, disagreed, saying if the council didn’t apply its required policy, it would set precedent for the six remaining vacant lots in the subdivision. Attorney Jay Bauer, hired by a neighbor to speak against the project, noted that disregarding 3A would negate its purpose of preventing people from building large houses on tiny lots.”Before annexation, some developers said, ‘Hey, the jig is up. We’d better build the biggest thing we can build because once we’re annexed, the rules will change,'” Bauer said. “That’s what they thought they were signing up for. Mimicking the county’s (LUDs) can’t be used as a banner to violate 3A.”Resident Carol Rockne agreed.”One reason we got annexed is because there was a lot of big development going on,” she said. “We went out, we voted, we wanted to go by the town codes. We annexed into the building code. Go by your building codes.”Resident Bryan Whitcomb said the homeowners association even abandoned its architectural control committee knowing the town’s codes would provide protection against undesired elements.”If I lost my house (to fire), I couldn’t rebuild it the way it was – the building height wouldn’t pass,” he said. “I’m willing to live with that. Let’s follow the town rules.”Councilmember Jim Lamb made a motion to reduce the positive points projects get for complying with town codes, but that motion was shot down 2-4. A motion was then made to approve the project’s point analysis, which passed 4-2.- Jane Stebbins
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