Silverthorne council weighs Willowbrook zoning update |

Silverthorne council weighs Willowbrook zoning update

A sign marks the entrance to the Willowbrook neighborhood in Silverthorne. In the last two months, two separate homeowners living in the subdivision have asked town council for zoning variances so they may add onto their homes and sidestep a zoning rule that allows buildings to occupy at most 30 percent of the lot on which they’re built.
Eli Pace / |

Fielding two requests in as many months from homeowners in the Willowbrook neighborhood who want bigger houses had Silverthorne Town Council wondering aloud Wednesday if it isn’t time to update the rules.

“It seems like, with the letters we’ve gotten from these two requests … that there’s some desire within Willowbrook to be able to exceed 30 percent lot coverage,” Councilwoman JoAnn Nadlin said at Wednesday’s meeting.

Per town code, homeowners in the R-6 zoning designation, which basically is the Willowbrook neighborhood, can build on up to 30 percent of their lots while having to leave at least 70 percent open.

The application for a variance that came before council Wednesday was submitted by Ryan and Jennifer Odell, who have lived in Silverthorne since 2007, bought a home here on North Chipmunk Lane in 2009 and now need more space to accommodate their growing family.

Noting how small of a variance the couple was seeking — just 3.5 percent over the cap — and that they had the blessings of their neighbors in writing, Councilman Russ Camp called it a “no-brainer” and joined the rest of council in voting unanimously to approve the Odells’ request.

Remembering a similar request for a variance from another couple also living in the Willowbrook neighborhood at the end of June, some council members wondered if it didn’t underscore a bigger issue within the subdivision.

“I would just encourage the (Willowbrook homeowners association) to work with (town) staff and decide what’s good for the neighborhood instead of us having to address this on a one-off basis,” Nadalin said during discussions.

The councilwoman confessed she doesn’t know what an appropriate maximum percentage for lot coverage might be, but said “it seems like the neighborhood working with (town) staff should be able to come up with something that will address these issues more universally.”

“I agree 100 percent with JoAnn,” Councilman Derrick Fowler chimed in, likening the issue to a previous one regarding town rules over signage. “When you see this many variance requests, you have to look back and say, ‘Maybe we should change the guidelines.’”

The original bylaws governing the Willowbrook neighborhood were adopted in November 1976, and the rules were amended a decade later to establish standards for setbacks, landscaping, parking, maximum height and lot coverage.

Since 1993, council has approved a dozen requests for variances in the Willowbrook neighborhood — excluding Wednesday’s — with eight of those applications coming from homeowners seeking to exceed the lot-coverage cap.

With more than 280 residential units at the subdivision, the number of variances granted over the last 24 years is not all that high. Additionally, most homeowners in the Willowbrook neighborhood haven’t run afoul of the zoning regulations, assistant town manager and director of community development Mark Leidal said while agreeing that the biggest difficulties with the cap seem to come from the smallest lots in the neighborhood.

“Thirty percent of a smaller lot doesn’t give you a large amount of building area so that’s where they are running into that 30 percent coverage issue,” he said.

The town planner added that changing town code is an all-or-none proposition and town officials haven’t done much to update the zoning rules because the neighborhood is “built-out” with just a couple open lots remaining.

Still, Leidal acknowledged that as the neighborhood has grown up over the years, the town is seeing more requests from homeowners there looking to upgrade their properties by doing things like remodeling or adding a garage. He said that “if (the town) were to get a request from the HOA, we would process that accordingly.”

Reached over the phone Friday, a representative of Summit Resort Group, which manages the Willowbrook neighborhood’s homeowners association, declined to comment.

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