Rules leave less room to build |

Rules leave less room to build

Scott N. Miller
Vail CO, Colorado
Bret Hartman/Vail DailyWhile construction continues at a rapid clip in the high country, some county officials say new rules will help control that growth in the future.

EAGLE COUNTY ” Dominic Mauriello would rather have it all in writing. That day may be coming.

Spurred on by Eagle County Commissioners Arn Menconi and Peter Runyon, the county is changing its land-use regulations to create what some believe might be too-strict regulations on building.

Tightening up those regulations was the point of last year’s ban on building more homes than were already approved for a piece of land. The ban was dropped in April, but work on new rules continues.

The latest rules govern how close homes can be to streams, and where they can be built on ridges that overlook the county’s highways.

“I’d prefer to see it all written down,” Mauriello said. “If they’re going to apply standards, as a planner I’d like to be able to anticipate that.”

The problem, Mauriello said, is when “unwritten rules” come into play that can derail a project over non-objective standards.

The new regulations will help with that, Runyon said.

“It’s been a high priority for me, getting a handle on how we grow and develop,” he said.

The new regulations will help guide that, Runyon said, and may provide better information to both county planners and developers about what will and won’t fly in the future.

“A lot of people were unhappy with Cordillera and Bachelor Gulch, and those were built with ridgeline regulations in place,” Runyon said.

Those regulations are also now linked with the county’s master plan. In the past, that plan has been more of a guide than a rule. Now, many of the county’s new land-use rules require projects to comply with the master plan before they’re approved.

Those new rules may have derailed plans for a new lumber yard at Dotsero.

Avon resident Karl Berger had been working with 84 Lumber, a Pennsylvania-based discount lumber company, on plans to put a store at Dotsero.

As the plan worked its way through the county’s bureaucracy, both the planning staff and the Eagle County Planning Commission recommended rejecting the plan, in part because it didn’t comply with the master plan.

Last week, 84 Lumber announced it was withdrawing its application.

“We looked at our costs and our return on investment,” company spokesman Jeff Nobers said last week. “We have a formula, and it wasn’t working at this site.”

That announcement came as hard news to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which 84 Lumber has supported with low-cost materials, cash donations and volunteer help elsewhere in the country.

“If you go against the master plan, that sets a precedent and a style for an area,” Runyon said. “If an 84 Lumber goes in, it defines an area. We need to be very careful about planning those areas.”

Runyon has previously said that the new rules will actually make life easier for developers.

But Commissioner Tom Stone said the rules, which have come with some degree of fanfare, aren’t as important as the philosophy of the commissioners, who ultimately make all the land-use decisions.

“The changes and additions to the land-use regulations are largely meaningless,” Stone said. “They really don’t do anything. It’s the approach to enforcement, or over-enforcement, that matters.”

While the 84 Lumber plan faced a hard go because of the land-use regulations, another project at Dotsero, a proposed recreational vehicle park, is also having trouble getting through the approval process.

“That application is totally in concert with the master plan, but that’s not good enough for the other two commissioners,” Stone said. “You can’t disregard or ignore the rules if you don’t like a project.”

But Runyon believes in the commissioners’ approach these days.

“If we’re thoughtful, and plan it, future development will be a benefit to the community,” he said.

Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

Vail Daily, Vail Colorado

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