Vail home project's neighbors celebrate, for now

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Special to the Daily A model of an East Vail home that was rejected by a town design board. A group of neighbors has aggressively opposed the project.

Scott N. Miller
July 31, 2004

An organized effort to scale down or stop construction of a new home in East Vail has paid off, at least for the moment.

The Vail Design Review Board, which reviews home design, color, and other exterior features, last week unanimously denied an application for a new house proposed on a vacant lot along Juniper Lane.

The vote - based on guidelines that allow the board to consider a project's effects on neighboring property owners - came after Bob and Kathy Villeau, whose home is on the back, or south side of the lot, hit the board with petitions against the project. About 15 neighbors also opposed to the home.

The Villeaus, who live on Meadow Drive, have complained that the proposed home, on a lot owned by Vail resident John Keck, will interfere with their views and privacy. The Villeaus also claim the home would violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the town's building codes, citing language in the codes that new construction must "blend in" with the natural environment.

Neighbors claimed proposed home, part of which would sit on a hill just north of the Villeaus' house, would violate that guideline. Board members agreed.

But the home, designed by longtime Vail architect Bill Pierce, does meet the letter of the codes. While the home as proposed is more than 5,100 square feet, it is somewhat smaller than it could be.

The home also illustrates the difficulty of building on the few remaining vacant lots in Vail. While Bill Pierce said he's proud the home design hugs the side of the hillside, the Villeaus say the plan, which includes blasting away the top four feet of a rocky outcropping at the top of the lot, will ultimately devalue their property.

"We're pleased and impressed the board looked at the guidelines," Bob Villeau said. "They listened intently to our presentation."

The home's designer takes a different view, of course.

"I don't know why the board made the decision they did," said Pierce. "I think so many people may have influenced their good judgment."

Disputes over new homes in existing neighborhoods are becoming more common in Vail, said Pierce, who also has long held a seat on the Design Review Board. Pierce has disqualified himself from the proceedings, and, in fact, was not even in the hearing room at the last meeting.

But while disputes over new construction are becoming more common, outright denial of a project is rare, Pierce said. The design board's usual practice is to recommend changes.

"We had a case with a very difficult lot in the Glen Lyon area," Pierce said, referring to a neighborhood along Gore Creek just west of Lionshead.

A next-door neighbor had complained that the proposed home was too close to his. The board asked the applicant to move the home four to six feet deeper into the lot, but not the 15 feet requested by the neighbor.

"We don't have the right to just say 'no,'" Pierce said. "We don't have the right to deny an owner the use of his site."

In the wake of the design board denial, Pierce said he and Keck are still deciding whether to pursue an appeal to the Town Council. "I think it's likely, but we don't know yet," he said.

For his part, Villeau said he and his neighbors will be watching to see what ultimately happens to the plans for the new house on Juniper Lane.


There were a pair of errors in the July 22 story about the Juniper Lane house.

The house isn't a "spec" home, as reported, but will be occupied by lot owner John Keck.

The back wall of the new home would be more than 30 feet from the home out the back side.