When Redstone Castle’s new owners went to Pitkin County commissioners in the summer of 2018 to seek approval of a complex land-use application to redevelop the historic property and outline the extent of proposed tourism operations, Crystal River Valley residents packed the room for a series of meetings.
Many of them aired their concerns about the multi-faceted request, which included the creation of a special zoning district for the castle and a master plan for the site. They feared the operation would bring noise, traffic and other impacts to the rural Pitkin County community. Some neighbors even hired a local attorney to represent their interests.
In the end, the owners prevailed, though commissioners placed several conditions on approval, one being that the tourism activity would be reviewed annually to examine the effect on the neighbors — and even local wildlife. On Wednesday, commissioners conducted their first review — and after 90 minutes of discussion, Redstone Castle owners Tom and April Carver received a passing grade.
“I think there’s a lot of positive things going on there,” said Suzanne Wolff, senior planner for the county’s community development department. Though there were a few complaints from neighbors that focused on noise during the November 2018 to October 2019 time frame that was the subject of the review, she said the Carvers and their operation had generally complied with the numerous conditions set forth by commissioners.
“I have to say I’m really impressed by the number of events that you did this past year, the number of participants, and … less than a handful of complaints,” Commissioner George Newman said during the meeting before bringing up some questions about the possible need for improvements to a road that provides access to the property.
Data provided by the Carvers to the county point to an active year for the castle, which was completed in 1903. In the years just prior to the Carvers’ $2 million purchase in 2016 and subsequent redevelopment, the unique attraction, which sits on 150 acres of land divided into three parcels, received few visitors.
Tours were available on 201 days of the year that was reviewed. Of the 3,909 people who were given tours, 3,609 were transported by either the castle’s 14-person shuttle or a private shuttle, lessening the impact on roads in and around the property. Only 300 people who were signed up for tours arrived by private automobile.
“The Redstone Castle is pleased with the popularity of its tours, positive feedback for the quality of the tours, and its ability to transport the tour guests by 14-person shuttle,” a report from the owners to the county states. “Over 90 percent of the historic mansion is now viewable by its visitors, more than any time in its history.”
The Carvers’ plans also included private lodging. The castle has seven to nine suites that were available to guests each night, and within the yearlong review period, 665 suites were rented to guests, the report says. The castle also has hosted numerous special events.
During Wednesday’s meeting, April Carver spoke of the positive attention the castle has recently received. It was the subject of a PBS television documentary that aired in January 2019. The castle also received the Dana Crawford Award for historic preservation from Colorado Preservation Inc., and has been featured in numerous magazine and newspaper articles.
A state grant of $200,000 was awarded to the castle to restore failing exterior stonework. Pitkin County transferable development rights, or TDRs, were used to supplement the owner’s required match to the grant.
“I’m very proud of what we achieved this year,” April Carver said.
Only one person showed up at Wednesday’s meeting to air complaints. Ruth Kinney, a member of the Crystal River Park homeowners association, said that while she appreciates the improvements made to the castle property, sound from special events that featured live music, emanating toward her residence, has been an issue.
“It doesn’t sound musical from where we sit,” she said, adding that she is worried about the future impact on her quality of life.
While commissioners focused on noise impacts during their review, a consultant hired by the Carvers said he conducted decibel measurements after complaints were made. The readings fell under the maximum noise levels outlined in the county’s noise ordinance.
Other concerns included the inability of consultants to get solid decibel readings to measure the impact of noise on local wildlife because the measurement location is on a steep hill that’s hard to access because of thick timber. The Carvers said they would continue to search for suitable measurement locations.
In the end, commissioners agreed to a new request made by the Carvers concerning the county’s requirement that a shuttle or pilot car be provided from the castle to Redstone Boulevard at the end of events in which alcohol is present. The Carvers asked that the requirement be amended so that the shuttle or private car would only be required for events with more than 40 guest vehicles.