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Aspen backs down on big houses


In what is likely a precursor of things to come in Whistler, Aspen City Council this week scrapped its own regulations which limited house size in the Colorado town.

Aspen had established a formula to limit house sizes after complaints in recent years that massive new homes were dwarfing neighbouring residences. The formula established a sliding scale for home size, based on lot size, and lowered the maximum house size within the city to 5,000 square feet.

Volume limitations were also established but these proved to be too complicated. Limits on home volumes had the unintended effect of dictating the design of interior spaces. They were also criticized as too onerous, particularly when homeowners were simply planning an addition to their house.

Some council members were also concerned the cap on volume and size would have a severe impact on home values for long-time residents.

However, all fears about the new regulations may be purely speculative, as no application to build a new home had been submitted since the new regulations went into effect in April.

Aspen city staff will now tackle concerns about out-of-scale homes through the city’s residential design guidelines. However floor-area caps will go back into force. Homes on the largest lots in Aspen can be up to 6,800 square feet. In other areas of town the maximum square footage will be 4,500.

Whistler is expected to have to deal with new, larger homes in older established neighbourhoods as the town reaches buildout and there are no more new building lots available. Lot consolidation is also predicted.

There has also been talk of trying to make employee suites mandatory in new homes in Whistler. However, there is a procedural difficulty in applying such a regulation to an entire existing neighbourhood.