Pitkin County Considers Upping Builders’ Fees To Encourage Homes With Renewable Energy

<p>Leslie Smail/CPR News</p>
<p>The town of Aspen and Aspen Highlands Ski Resort.</p>
Town of Aspen
The town of Aspen and Aspen Highlands Ski Resort.

Pitkin County commissioners are considering upping the ante to encourage the builders of larger homes in the Aspen area to use renewable energy.

The county's Renewable Energy Mitigation Program collects fees based on the size of new homes larger than 5,750 square feet to offset the environmental impacts of the increased energy use.

Commissioners on Tuesday discussed the possibility of increasing the fee on each excess square foot of housing space from $1 to $45 in some cases and up to $60 in the largest homes, the Aspen Times reports. Fees also are charged for snow melting systems and outdoor swimming pools and spas.

The county uses the money on renewable energy projects or as rebates for energy efficiency work at other residences in the ski resort area.

Homeowners can offset the fees by installing renewable energy systems, such as solar energy or geothermal heat.

Commissioner Greg Poschman said it should be the commission's "ambition" to limit the size of homes in the county, thus limiting the consumption of energy.

Commissioner Rachel Richards suggested requiring that homes over 8,000 square feet generate at least as much energy as they use.

County planners say a recent study found that buildings are the largest contributor of greenhouse gases in Pitkin County.

Currently, builders of homes larger than 5,750 square feet pay the Renewable Energy Mitigation Project a fee of $1 for each additional square foot. County staff recommended an increase to $45 per square foot for the additional square footage up to 8,250 and $60 for additional square footage for larger homes.

The fees for a 9,000 square-foot home could increase to nearly $200,000.

"We need to encourage people to build smaller homes," board chairwoman Patti Clapper said. "And we need to assist them in doing that."

Commissioners did not take immediate action on any of the proposals.