With significant changes o the Pitkin County land-use code that will put a standard cap on home sizes countywide as well as alter the process for exceeding those limitations, county commissioners hope to preserve the valley’s rural character.

But, first, a bit of background. Previously, house sizes in Pitkin County’s urban growth were limited mainly by permissible floor-area-to-lot ratios, though projects with more than 15,000 square feet of livable space had to undergo a special review. In addition, exemptions were given for most houses so that up to 4,000 square feet of subgrade space and 750 feet of garage space were not counted in the floor area total. If you wanted to build a new house in a rural-designed area, on the other hand, Pitkin County restricted the size to 5.750 square feet of habitable space, under revision made to the code in 2000. If you needed a larger place you could purchase one or more transferable development rights (TDRs) from property owners who gave up their entitlement to develop part of their land in exchange for selling that right to someone else to use elsewhere in the county. Or you could apply for additional space, competing for it with other ambitious builders, through the county’s growth-management quota system, which puts a ceiling on annual total square footage of new construction in a given neighborhood.

Now, according to the revision – the first complete rewrite of the code since 1994 – the 5,750 square-foot limit will be enacted countywide.

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