Closure for the "house on the hill" in Spring Hollow, near Tetonia
In response to the 2009 complaint filed by VARD regarding the “house on the hill” near Tetonia, the county planning staff developed an interactive GIS program and confirmed that 27 of the 50 lots in the subdivision have skylining building envelopes. Building envelopes are specific locations on the plat depicting where the house must be built on the property to protect sensitive areas and ridge-tops. The 2006 approvals record is clear that the developer and his representatives made assurances that the Spring Hollow building envelopes would not skyline.
So the building envelopes skyline – what is being done about it?
For the past several months, the planning administrator has been negotiating a plan with the developer to relocate the building envelopes in all 42 of the unsold lots in Spring Hollow. In most cases, simply moving the building envelope was enough to prevent skylining. For 9 of the lots, a building height restriction of 24 feet was also imposed. These new building envelopes have now been recorded to prevent the construction of any future skylining houses.
What about the house that is already built?
To this day, the CCR’s for Spring Hollow state that the developer shall serve as the design review committee to ensure that every house is properly designed to be unobtrusive and located in its building envelope. Looking at the almost 9,000 square foot vacant spec house that we all see today, and admissions made by developer Mark Gross to the commissioners, we know that this review did not happen. Unfortunately, that is the very problem with CCR’s; the county has no jurisdiction to enforce them because they are a private agreement between the developer and the lot owners.
What about recourse against the developer and/or lot owner?
The short answer is the county worries that they have unclean hands in the matter. The previous county building official not only issued a building permit for the house to be built where it is located, but also then issued a subsequent certificate of occupancy. The only penalties available to the county would be criminal penalties, which would be difficult to achieve.
What about the lots that have been sold?
8 lots have already sold, including the 4 lots right along side the house on top of the hill. Some of these lot owners have expressed a willingness to work with the county to relocate their building envelopes, while others have not responded. It is not clear what will happen to those who do not respond. With that said, changes could be made to our current building code to require mitigation from the lot owner when they seek to build a house in their skylining building envelope.