County studies limiting rural-home size

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County leaders soon may try to answer the question, "How big is too big?"

The possibility of placing a limit on maximum home size in Routt County was discussed Thursday during a joint meeting of the Routt County Board of Commissioners and the county Planning Commission. The two bodies directed planning staff to undertake a thorough study of similar ordinances in other mountain resort communities.

Planning Director Caryn Fox said the genesis of the conversation can be found in the comprehensive plan, in which the desirability of preserving the rural character of unincorporated areas of the county is stressed.

Pitkin County (home to Aspen) and Teton County, Wyo., have implemented regulations limiting the size of rural homes, Fox said. Counties wanted to limit visual impact and resource and energy consumption.

Greg Forney, who attended Thursday's meeting, urged the commissioners to consider the high-paying jobs created by the construction of large rural homes before they impose limitations on them.

"They actually generate a lot of prosperity for the community as a whole," Forney said.

However, when Pitkin County enacted its regulations limiting maximum home size to 15,000 square feet, county leaders noted that the bigger the house, the more service-sector employees take care of them. Landscapers, spa-maintenance workers, caretakers and cleaning-service employees influence the transportation and housing infrastructure.

On Thursday, commissioners were attracted to the structure of the maximum homes size limitations in Teton County, which take into account lot size.

Teton County's regulations are keyed to a floor-area ratio calculation.

In Teton County, property owners with lots of 10 acres or smaller are limited to 10,000 square feet of floor area, including accessory structures.

On residential lots or parcels larger than 10 acres, homeowners may add 100 square feet of floor area for every additional acre up to 15,000 square feet. However, the maximum floor area of an individual building, excluding basements, may not exceed 10,000 square feet.

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