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Building creates wall between neighbors

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By Vicky Gits

Veronica Weins knew her neighbor in Columbine Hills was building a garage, but she didn’t know it was going to be a featureless, metal industrial box almost two stories tall and nearly as big as a house. So instead of a view of rooftops and treetops, as of November Weins has gazed at a very different vista. “It’s just so big that’s all we look at. It’s like a big wall there, and we used to be able to see way over to the next street,” said Weins, a retired corporate legal assistant in her 70s. Weins and her husband, Bob, live at 6319 W. Chestnut Ave., which backs up to the yard of the home at 8146 Lamar Court. Theirs is a neighborhood of vintage ‘70s tri-levels, wood-trimmed ranch homes, big lawns and mature trees, where the 1,800-square-foot metal building has raised eyebrows. “It’s a monstrosity,” Bob Weins said. Weins said she confronted the neighbor, Russ Tabor, and he said he had a legal building permit. Tabor said he was trying to clean up the property and get his RV and other vehicles out of sight instead of parking them on the street. “I’ve only had one neighbor come and talk to me,” Tabor said. “(The Weinses) are always complaining about something.” Before he built the garage, the Weinses complained about the dilapidated shed that was previously in its place, Tabor said. “I don’t know what to say. I’ve tried to do what I could. The area was neglected when we bought it in 1992.” He said he has done a lot to improve the property, including taking out scrub trees and building an addition onto his house. Other nearby homes have RVs, snowmobiles and boats parked in the side yards. Like the Weinses, some have solar heating panels on the roof, but no one else has a steel outbuilding of such proportions. “It’s mind boggling the county would allow it,” Weins said. Tabor owns the house and a large yard on a cul de sac on Lamar Court. Neighbor Ann Haberman backs up Weins’ complaint. “It’s not in my backyard, but I definitely would not want it ee It looks like a warehouse,” Haberman said. “It just doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.” Mark Johnson, president of the Columbine Hills Homeowners Association, said he had been contacted by some of the neighbors. “Our covenants state it has to substantially match the other structures on the property,” Johnson said. So far the HOA hasn’t taken any formal action. “But we are investigating it,” Johnson said. He is not sure if anything can be done. Johnson lives a block away on South Lamar Street and isn’t directly affected. “If I lived behind it, I would be concerned,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t match anything else.” The current zoning applies to a large spectrum of properties varying in size from one-half to 10 acres. “To change the zoning is quite an undertaking,” Johnson said. According to zoning administrator Mike Chadwick of Jefferson County Planning and Zoning, the building meets all the legal requirements for an area zone R1-A or residential district one. “This is an unfortunate instance where a person has obtained a permit to build a structure that conforms to all regulations, but has an enormous impact on adjacent properties. It is also unfortunate that the owner did not discuss the proposed size and location with his neighbors before construction. This individual owns a parcel that is significantly larger than the adjacent parcels, and appears to have had some options in locating the structure that would have had less impact to the neighborhood,” Chadwick said in an e-mail. The size of the building is consistent with the rule that says a secondary building must be smaller than the main home, which is 3,800 square feet, Chadwick said. Subtracting the area of the attached garage, the owner technically is entitled to build a 3,400-square-foot building, or nearly twice as large the one he actually built. The rear setback requirement is 5 feet, and the maximum height is 35 feet. The Lamar Court building is set back 6 feet, and the height is 25 feet. It has no windows but three garage-door openings. Chadwick said the county cannot legally deny an applicant a permit when the permit meets the zoning criteria. Weins has a copy of the 1971 covenants that include a paragraph on “architectural control.” But there is no procedure or architectural control committee to rule on proposed structures. The relevant paragraph says buildings have to be approved for “harmony of external design with existing structure” and “quality of workmanship and materials.” But covenants are not the county’s responsibility. “We cannot and do not enforce HOA restrictions,” Chadwick said. “We do see these type structures in all strata of real estate development in Jefferson County.”