By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
The Carbondale Planning & Zoning Commission, acting as the Board of Adjustment on May 11, instructed staff to craft “findings” — the first step in a process that could lead to a building permit denial at 728 Euclid.
Carbondale building official John Plano issued a building permit to Pat Kiernan to construct a 4,455-square-foot house on his 7,040-square-foot lot in March, but several neighborhood residents protested the issuance, leading to the May 11 Board of Adjustment meeting.
The Board of Adjustment voted 7-0 in a nonbinding straw poll to instruct staff to craft findings, which it will consider before taking a formal vote whether to deny the building permit on May 31.
The P&Z/BOA voting members on May 11 were Michael Durant, Yuani Ruiz, Jen DiCuollo, Marina Skiles and Gavin Brooke; alternates Ken Harrington and Jay Engstrom also voted.
Kiernan, 61, submitted plans to the town for a five-bedroom, three-story house with a 1,485-square-foot footprint, consisting of a basement, ground floor and top floor. The ground floor would have one bedroom, one office and 1.5 bathrooms, according to Kiernan’s plans at town hall. The building permit that Plano issued 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 petition addressed to the Carbondale Board of Adjustment, appealing Plano’s issuance of a building permit. They are appealing the permit primarily on two points:
1. They argue that the proposed structure does not meet 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 in April 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.
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.
Kiernan told The Sopris Sun his vision for the house is “net-zero.” That means the structure is designed to make as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. To accomplish that, 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 in March. One problem with net-zero, Kiernan conceded, is that 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.
Approximately 25 people attended the meeting, which was chaired by Michael Durant. The audience seemed about evenly split on whether the BOA should confirm or overrule Plano’s decision to issue the building permit. Opponents’ main concerns were to the house’s mass, design and roofline, and the possibility of several non-related adults living there.
“The bulk and mass is so imposing,” said Meredith Bullock early in the meeting. “It doesn’t fit in the neighborhood.”
Richard Vottero, citing the steadily increasing housing prices in Carbondale, stood up and defended Kiernan’s proposed house for several reasons. “He’s doing a building on a site that is allowed.” Vottero indicated he might want to move into Kiernan’s house in the future. “I’ve moved three times in the past several years” and “this makes for a density we have to put up with.”
Attorney Kelsy Nichols spoke for Kiernan at the meeting. Among her comments: “The board’s task is to uphold the UDC. It doesn’t have the power to change the code.” She pointed out Kiernan’s proposed house meets setbacks included in the UDC, and that under the law, specifics always rule over the general.”
Early this week, Town Planner Janet Buck told The Sopris Sun the BOA members discussed the issues raised at the three and a half hour meeting and possible occupancy in the structure was not a big concern. “They were okay with the use as long as it met occupancy ordinances,” she said.
The bigger issue for BOA members was the mass and scale of the building. She said the BOA members indicated the house didn’t meet “the intent” of the OTR zone district, which applies to the older part of the original Carbondale.
Pat Kiernan did not return messages seeking comment for this story.