By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
Residents in a neighborhood immediately southwest of Sopris Park are protesting a building permit that allows for a five bedroom, 4,455-square foot house (with basement and second floor) on a 7,040-square-foot lot, according to documents filed at town hall on March 31.
The property, at 728 Euclid, sits between the old Ferguson “farm-house” that is undergoing an extensive renovation, and a single-story contemporary house to the west.
The property owner, Pat Kiernan, said in his plans that the entire footprint covers 1,485 square feet. The ground floor includes one bedroom, one office and 1.5 bathrooms. The building permit says the basement and second floor will be “unfinished”. The basement includes one bedroom and two bathrooms. The second floor is configured for three bedroom suites, each with a bathroom and “study” area or “sitting” room.
Fourteen neighbors/households put their names on a document addressed to the Carbondale Board of Adjustment, appealing building inspector John Plano’s issuance of a building permit. They are appealing the permit primarily on two points:
1. The proposed structure does not meet the language in Section 3.2.3 (Old Town Residential), whose purpose is “to allow residential uses and densities that are consistent with the historic character of Old Town Carbondale,” the appeal states. The appeal goes on to say the neighbors feel the structure does not meet the OTR standards due to its size, massing, bulk and siting” and concludes, “There does not seem to be any consideration of its surrounding context in the proposed design.”
2. The protest also says the proposed structure is “designed to accommodate multiple renters” and “is closer to a Boarding House (sic) than a single family residence.”
In addressing the boarding house issue, Kiernan told The Sopris Sun the new structure is actually co-housing, and it’s within the town’s code that allows unrelated adults to live in the same house.
“This creates affordable housing,” Kiernan said.
The building permit protest letter on file at town hall lists Mark Mahoney, who lives next door to Kiernan’s property at 742 Euclid Avenue, as the first signatory. Mahoney did not respond to a Sopris Sun e-mail for comments.
Carbondale’s Unified Development Code calls for five residential zone districts: AG, OTR (Old Town Residential), R/LD, R/MD and R/HD. Permitted uses in the OTR zone district are: manufactured/factory-built dwellings, single family detached, transit stop, park/open space/playground, community garden, sale of produce and plants raised on premises and other uses as a tent structure for single-vehicle parking. Special and conditional uses include: a group home, religious use, day care (fewer than seven children), and bed and breakfast. Boarding houses are listed under Lodging Facilities in the UDC, along with bed and breakfast, hotel, hostel, hotel and motel. Boarding houses are not permitted in the OTR zone district.
Town Planner Janet Buck told The Sopris Sun the Planning and Zoning Commission will act as the Board of Adjustment at May 11 public hearing. The UDC allows “any person aggrieved” by the decision of an administrative officer. At the public hearing, each side will have an opportunity to present evidence and argument relevant to the appeal. The Planning Commission (acting as the Board of Adjustment) will issue a final decision, which can be appealed to the Garfield County District Court. Buck said the Board of Adjustment only considers 1) an appeal of an administrative decision; or 2) a request for a variance from the zoning parameters in zone districts, i.e., building height, setbacks, etc. In this case, Kiernan is not asking for any variances or relief from setbacks and building height.
It’s apparently fair game for the public to protest a building permit issued by a town administrator. “As far as I recall, there has been no appeal of administrative decision to issue a building permit since I started with the Town in 2001,” Buck said.
“My vision is for this house is ‘net-zero’,” Kiernan told The Sopris Sun. That means the structure will make as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. To accomplish a net-zero structure, the house will include solar panels on the roof, which are shown on the building plan (available for viewing in the planning office at town hall). Keeping the building “simple” will help with energy efficiency, as well as other construction and design features. “I think this fits great with Carbondale,” Kiernan said. One problem with net-zero, however, is a building must be oriented with its long axis going north/south to attain the maximum solar gain. This can create a lot of building mass from the façade facing the street. “That’s not ideal,” Kiernan said.
Addressing the larger picture, Kiernan said “ … look at the planet” and the impacts of heating and cooling buildings. “ … to be fair to the global environment … I’m doing my best to do that.”
Kiernan, 61, moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from Wisconsin to work for Rocky Mountain Institute in 1987. He later became an independent energy consultant and electrical contractor. These days, he’s studying philosophy and psychology, and focusing on his house.
Kiernan’s current go-around with the town is actually his second in the past two years or so. The Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on variance requests for a similar proposal that called for an ADU (accessory dwelling unit) above a detached garage. Many of the same opponents to Kiernan’s current plan also attended a public hearing to protest on May 28, 2015.
The P&Z voted 6-0 to deny the variances, according to minutes from that meeting.