‘Green’ building vote delayed | VailDaily.com

‘Green’ building vote delayed

EAGLE ” Kara Heide would like an energy-efficient home. She just isn’t sure she can afford to build one.

Heide, a longtime county resident, is about ready to start work on a home of her own. But she worries that county regulations requiring energy-efficient building may bust her budget.

Jim Guida, though, calls energy-efficient building “the gift that keeps on giving.”

“This has been the single biggest shot in the arm for me and my business in the nearly 27 years I’ve been in the business,” said Guida, who has spent nearly his entire career in Eagle County.

With Heide’s worries as a guide, the Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday delayed a vote on a new set of building codes that require new construction in the county to meet several new energy-efficiency standards. Another hearing on the regulations has been set for April 11.

Lower utility bills?

The “eco-build” standards use a point system based on materials used and home size. Different-sized homes have to hit different point levels to avoid extra charges.

Those charges, $4 per square foot, worried Heide, especially after talking to friends in the building business.

Heide said those friends have questioned the effectiveness of some of the items that can get builders to the number of points needed to meet the standards.

Those worries may fade as builders get used to the new regulations, Guida said. Once the regulations are passed ” which seems certain at some point ” builders will have four months to learn the new codes before they take effect.

“There’s going to be whining and moaning, there always is,” Guida said. “But I can promise you we’ll figure out a way to make it work.”

While Heide worried about the cost of building, county planner Adam Palmer’s numbers indicate homeowners can save far more than they spend.

Using an example of a $300,000 home that takes another $800 to meet the standards, Palmer’s numbers indicate meeting the regulations adds $5 a month to a mortgage payment, and can save $360 per year on utility bills.

More carrots

In the end, though, when Commissioner Tom Stone questioned whether the board was passing the regulations too quickly, fellow commissioners Peter Runyon and Arn Menconi agreed to delay a vote for another month or so.

“This is counterproductive for affordable housing,” Stone said. “We’re well meaning, but I think some of the unintended consequences are unacceptable.”

Stone urged the commissioners to send the regulations back to the Eagle County Planning Commission for more work. While the Roaring Fork Planning Commission has recommended approval of the regulations, the Eagle County Planning Commission rejected the regulations, citing, among other things, worries about the impacts on people like Heide.

Looking into the details of the new regulations, Runyon said he’d like to see the point system adjusted to include more “carrots.”

As proposed, the regulations would give builders a 25 percent discount on building-permit fees, but only if they double the number of points a project racks up. On a small home, a builder would have to hit 80 points, not the required 40, to get a discount.

Runyon said the discount should take effect with fewer points.

Five points short

Local resident Gerry Arnold urged the commissioners to be less strict for those who fall just short of the new point totals.

“It seems like if you’re trying and fall maybe five points short, there might be some method of not paying the full $4 per square foot,” Arnold said.

The Eagle County Planning Commission will have a chance to look over some of those suggestions, and will probably make a new recommendation to the commissioners before the April 11 meeting.

“The planning commission made some astute comments last time,” Stone said. “We need to take our time and do this properly.”

Staff writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624 or at smiller@vaildaily.com.

Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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