Inverness house plans get green light after bending to neighbors' concerns

03/25/2020

A new house in Inverness is one step closer to construction, with its design modified to resolve neighbors’ concerns, after a zoning administrator this month approved the project. The proposal for 20 Trossach Way, on the western edge of the mesa overlooking Second Valley, led several residents to write to the county that the home’s large windows would create a highly visible “lantern effect.” Neighbors also commented that the building’s height, preponderance of windows and boxy design do not fit in with the natural environment and community character. Neighbors along Trossach were specifically concerned with the impact that heavy construction vehicles would have on their unmaintained road. The concerns prompted county staff at a February zoning hearing to require a general reduction in the living room’s height and window lengths. Instead of seeking approval with those conditions, the property owner, Spencer Stenmark, requested another hearing this month so that he and the project architect could meet with neighbors. When they returned last week with a new design, most of those with concerns were now in support of it. “Overall we did try to be really thoughtful. I did try to take everyone’s comments very seriously,” said Mr. Stenmark, who plans to move into the home with his wife and three young children. The window lengths on the western and southern façades of the living room were reduced by more than half, and the windows on the northern façade were reduced by 25 percent. Besides reducing the lantern effect, this resolved an issue brought up by Ed Nute, who lives on Vision Road, that birds would be killed when they see through two sets of windows to the forest on the other side and try to fly through. The next issue to tackle was the building’s height. County staff this month maintained their recommendation that the building height be reduced, this time with a specified five-foot reduction for the living room. But Riley Hurd, the lawyer representing the Stenmarks, argued that a whole-house approach would be more effective for reducing the building’s mass; the new design reduces each room’s height by one to two feet. “If you go the site and actually look at [the story poles]—not in 2-D, not calling it boxy or other pejorative terms for the design—it fades away,” he said. The zoning administrator agreed with Mr. Hurd, and the required five-foot reduction was removed, against staff recommendations. The last concern, raised by Tom and Sherry Baty, was over the impact of construction on Trossach Way both during work and afterwards, when it would need repair. In response, the project was modified to include a driveway to three off-street parking spots, and before the hearing, the Stenmarks agreed to pay up to $40,000 for road repairs, Mr. Baty said. The cost could be complicated by a separate construction project on the same road by the Inverness Public Utility District, which is replacing two decaying redwood storage tanks, called the Tenney tanks, with steel tanks. While the timing for both construction projects hasn’t been determined, Mr. Baty is requesting the district set aside another $40,000 for road repairs to share the cost with the Stenmarks after both projects are complete. The district’s board of directors was receptive to the idea and placed the item on the agenda for the next board meeting. “We are committed to restoration,” board president Ken Emanuels said.