Locals are questioning the approval of a new home being built on Owl Creek Road in Snowmass Village that hinders views.
Locals are questioning the approval of a new home being built on Owl Creek Road in Snowmass Village that hinders views. Credit: Jordan Curet / Aspen Daily News

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The new Aspen Art Museum isn’t the only local building that’s generating buzz for its modern design and view-blocking qualities. A new home perched above Owl Creek Road in Snowmass Village that hinders views of iconic Mt. Daly has raised the ire of residents who are asking how it was approved in the first place.

“Unlike other single-family subdivisions in the village, that subdivision was not subject to Snowmass Homeowners Association review,” said Julie Ann Woods, the town’s community development director. “It was negotiated as a part of Base Village.”

Designed by Skylab Architects of Portland, Ore., the 4,300-square-foot home is one of just a handful within all of Snowmass Village that wasn’t reviewed by the powerful Snowmass Homeowners Association, which first incorporated in 1966.

“I don’t know how this came about,” said association director Donna Aiken. She recalled only two other homes in Snowmass Village, both located in the Ridge subdivision, which skirted the Snowmass Homeowners Association’s design review process.

Today, there are 850 members in the association, many who have called Aiken to complain about the house.

“People that drive by on Owl Creek Road, people that live at Country Club townhomes, people across the hill at Wildridge” have all voiced negative opinions about the modern design and its very visible location, Aiken said.

Woods also has fielded questions about the home, which some in the community have labeled the “Jetsons house.” It was the subject of rancor during the mid-summer meeting of the Part-Time Residents Advisory Board.

“Part of it is, this is new and different architecture from what we see in the village,” Woods said. “That alone is going to spur conversation.”

Woods also warned that the public should be prepared for a second, even larger home that will soon begin construction in the same vicinity.

Review was ‘atypical’

Approved more than a decade ago in concert with the Base Village development, Sinclair Meadows includes 21 deed-restricted employee-housing units whose resale is managed by the town, and 17 free-market, single-family home sites.

Four single-family homes are complete and five are currently under construction, according to Andrew Light, managing partner of the Sinclair Meadows Holding Co. Light’s group has owned it since 2010, after buying the project from Alpine Bank.

Light, son of early Snowmass Village developer Jim Light, said he’s “spoken to many people about the home. I’ve been very open in answering questions.”

He said the situation “is a little atypical in that it’s not part of the Snowmass Homeowners review committee,” but that there are design guidelines approved by the town.

Woods said the town signed off on its zoning and plan check but “we don’t handle any design review here.”

Sinclair Meadows subdivision has its own, three-person design review board that includes Light and “other homeowners in the neighborhood.” The process is permitted as part of the 2004 Base Village approval, which included the employee housing stock as part of the project’s mitigation.

The then-town council also approved the location of the free-market lots, which includes the two that pierce the ridgeline.

“We had virtually no choice where to site it,” said architect T. Michael Manchester, who is the local representative for the Skylab home and the designer of a forthcoming neighboring house. “The building envelope is pretty small.”

Manchester was mayor of Snowmass Village during the time of the Base Village approval.

“I’m not sure anyone appreciated [a decade ago] that it was going to stick out on that point so much,” he said.

Woods predicts that once the building is finished — it will include rusted metal and subdued slate colors — and the landscaping is completed, the home will appear less obvious.

Snowmass Village, Aspen and Pitkin County all have some form of ridgeline protection regulations.

Within Snowmass Village’s land-use code, section 16A-4-50, is this passage: “Ridgeline protection areas are those lands that are visible from Brush Creek Road, Owl Creek Road or the Town Community Park and are at the crest of highest elevation of a ridge or hillside or are within 50 feet of elevation, measured vertically, from the crest of a ridge or hillside.”

But flat ground is hard to find in Snowmass Village and by virtue of its topography,

“Every piece of architecture in town breaks the ridgeline to some effect,” said Manchester.

Aiken said property owners in Horse Ranch initially wanted carte blanche on their home designs.

“The developer had a hard time saying ‘no’ after they sold them a lot,” she said.

Horse Ranch did join the Snowmass Homeowners Association, and a committee comprised primarily of architects and builders reviews those homes for design.

“We’ve tried to incorporate contemporary as much as we can without going overboard,” Aiken said about the association’s review standards.

Maybe the uproar would have been softer if the “Jetsons home” was more in keeping with the traditional mountain style that predominates within the town.

Manchester said there are a “fair amount of contemporary houses” in Snowmass Village but most are located in less visible locations.

“Everyone freaks out with change,” he said. “It’s true in politics and true in architecture. Some are going to like it, some are going to hate it. It’s like art.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism and the Aspen Daily News are collaborating on coverage of Snowmass Village and other local governments. The Daily News published this story on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Follow journalist Madeleine Osberger on Twitter @Madski99.