The so-called “Jetsons House” in Snowmass Village, subject of a recent glowing story in The New York Times, is notable for more than its local controversy of being on a ridgeline: The home’s co-developers are also cousins of former president George W. Bush.
Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and his sister, Wendy Stapleton Reyes, used a limited liability company called Snowmass Snowflake to buy Lot 9 in the Sinclair Meadows neighborhood in 2011 for $1.3 million, according to the Pitkin County Assessor’s Office.
Earlier this year, Walker Stapleton, whose mother, Dorothy Walker Stapleton, is a first cousin to the 41st U.S. president, George H.W. Bush, signed over management duties of the LLC to his sister and her husband, Diego Reyes of Greenwich, Conn. The couple built a 4,500-square-foot home on the property that cost about $800 a square foot to construct, they told Times reporter Tim McKeogh.
“After the couple bought the lot … in 2011 [architect Jeff Kovel of Portland, Ore.] set to work, creating a two-story triangular wedge that jutted out from the hillside – his creative solution to the property’s unusual set of constraints, which included a relatively small buildable area on a steep slope, with a height limit of 28 feet,” McKeogh reported.
The article, which has been widely circulated locally since its Nov. 13 publication, did not reference the owners’ lineage nor the controversy surrounding how a home located in a community with a strict ridgeline protection code — a residence that blocks some residents’ views of iconic Mount Daly — was approved.
In fact, the Sinclair Meadows subdivision, which was included as part of the 2004 Base Village approval, enjoyed an atypical review outside the oversight of the powerful Snowmass Homeowners Association, which was first incorporated in 1966.
The approval led to multiple complaints by residents, as well as the second-home owners’ advisory board, to the town’s community development department and the Snowmass planning commission during the home’s construction in 2014-15.
“People who drive by on Owl Creek Road, people who live at [the] Country Club townhomes, people across the hill at Wildridge” have all voiced negative opinions about the modern design and its very visible location, homeowners’ association director Donna Aiken told Aspen Journalism in 2014.
She recalled only two other homes in the entire history of Snowmass Village that were able to skirt the HOA’s design-review process.
The public uproar also led to the coining of the home’s nickname, the “Jetsons House.”
Sinclair Meadows includes 21 employee-housing units and 17, free-market, single-family homes.
‘Ostentatious show of wealth’
The real estate market has turned around considerably since the Stapleton siblings bought the Snowmass Village lot in 2011. According to Garrett Reuss, who is co-developing the subdivision with Andrew Light, 15 of the 17 lots in Sinclair Meadows have now closed.
After Reuss and Light “fielded a number of calls on that house during different times in that development,” the public furor has mostly subsided, he said.
“Clearly it was partially the modern look. I think people were freaking out about the positioning of the house. But there’s no other way to put a house on that lot,” Reuss said. “The only comments I’ve gotten in the last three months are, ‘It’s a cool-looking house’ and ‘How can you get me in to see the house?’”
He’s also heard mention that, “It’s great there’s new architecture in Snowmass Village and that people would be willing to take that kind of risk.”
Reuss allowed that the positive comments might not be coming from the same folks who initially registered complaints.
Julie Ann Woods, community development director for the town, said after the initial uproar, “We have not been receiving any more calls or inquiries about the structure.”
That’s not to say there’s unanimous local support for the home, however.
“It’s out of character with Snowmass,” said Jack Rafferty, who has operated a boot-fitting business on the Snowmass Mall for decades.
He called the home’s magnitude “overwhelming,” and said it’s typical of most projects developed locally in recent years.
“The ostentatious show of wealth is so much more in your face now,” said Rafferty, who also decried the loss of “unique characters” and local landmarks in the upper-valley communities.
Architect T. Michael Manchester was the local representative (though not the architect) for Skylab Architecture, the Oregon firm that designed the residence. He said he isn’t surprised some of the criticism has subsided now that the home is finished.
“I still think it’s a pretty piece of architecture that was produced by our local construction industry,” he said, crediting Carbondale-based Ridge Runner Construction.
Manchester, who was also the mayor at the time of the Base Village approval, has previously noted the difficulty in finding a flat piece of ground for building in Snowmass Village.
Reuss said he believes the story in The New York Times offers “great exposure for Snowmass.” He allowed, though, the “architecture is so much more modern than what people are building here.”
Manchester agreed, adding, “Architecture is subjective, and that’s how it goes.”
Colorado State Treasurer Walker Stapleton did not reply to a request for comment.
Aspen Journalism assisted in this story.