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Proposal could limit trophy homes

BOB BERWYN

SUMMIT COUNTY – A backcountry designation proposed for 2,000 to 3,000 acres of private land in the Snake River Basin could help prevent the future spread of trophy homes in some of Summit County’s highest ground by setting square-footage caps on house size.Long-range planner Mark Truckey said the changes in backcountry development rules would affect about 250 individual mining claims, averaging about five acres each. The land is zoned as A-1, for agricultural uses, allowing one house per 20 acres.”The agricultural zone district was inappropriately applied,” Truckey said. “Probably mining would have been appropriate. We’re dealing with the legacy of that.” Since the average lot size is five acres, Truckey said the planning department requires a minimum lot size variance.”The biggest hurdle is having to bring the access road up to county standards,” Truckey said. In some cases it could cost up to a million dollars. That price tag has been seen as a detriment to development to some on the more remote and inaccessible parcels. But as land becomes more scarce, Truckey said eventually a developer could throw a lot of money at such a project, resulting in a big road up a steep mountainside and trophy homes visible on the steep slopes.Under the proposed change, bundled with other updates in a pending revision of the Snake River master plan, property owners would not have to upgrade roads to the highest standards. At the same time, the new guidelines call for size limits on houses, ranging from 750 square feet on a two-acre lot, 900 square feet on an average five-acre lot, and up to 2,400 square feet if a builder can piece together a 35-acre chunk of land.The same concept has been used in the Upper Blue Basin for several years, where it has been working well, Truckey said. The Upper Blue backcountry zone encompasses about 400 properties covering about 4,000 acres. By contrast, there are only about 10 such properties in the Tenmile Basin.Backcountry zoning would not take effect with adoption of the master plan, but would likely be in place by 2006, Truckey said.Key piece of master planA modified transfer of development rights (TDR) program is another key piece of the draft master plan, to be presented at a Sept. 1 open house at Summit Cove Elementary School. Under the existing TDR program, density can be sent from anywhere to anywhere, Truckey said. Tweaking the guidelines will help make it clear that the backcountry should be the primary sending area, he explained. At the same time, there’s flexibility to move density within existing areas like Keystone Resort, Truckey said. The resort’s PUD plan also has some internal transfer mechanisms, he added.The Upper Blue’s TDR program sees action about two to three times per year, Truckey said, with a large transaction involving 29 backcountry TDRs as part of a pending annexation.”It’s possible we could have a TDR bank,” Truckey said of the preliminary version of the new Snake River plan. The county hopes to complete the update by year’s end, and Truckey said Vail Resorts and Keystone have expressed general support for the TDR program and for protecting the backcountry.The plan also hones in on the Highway 6 corridor down-valley from the resort, with proposed land-use maps showing open space buffers between residential communities. Land opposite the highway from the Swan Mountain Road intersection has at least been eyed for potential commercial development, Truckey said, explaining that the draft plan addresses the issue of open space separation in that southeast Dillon area.The open house will include maps of proposed land uses, significant summer and winter trail routes, visually important lands, and other relevant data incorporated into the draft Snake River Master Plan. “The Snake River Master Plan is the basin’s guiding document that establishes a community vision and a framework for sensible planning principles to be applied to development proposals,” Truckey said. “The plan addresses growth and development issues, some of which are unique to the Snake River Basin,” he added.”Public input is critical,” planning director Jim Curnutte said in press release. Feedback from citizens will “help ensure that the plan adequately addresses appropriate issues as perceived by the community,” Curnutte said. “We encourage all Snake River Basin residents to attend the meeting, so that they can participate in helping to shape the basin’s future.”Bob Berwyn can be contacted at berwyn@mountainmax.com.


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