Ultimate Triumph | SkyHiNews.com

Ultimate Triumph

Melissa M. Kellogg
Grand County Homes and Properties

As they drove to the top of the hill toward the lot that was for sale, the

spectacular view of Chair Mountain, also known as God’s Chair, came into

view. “It was the most soulful view we had ever seen,” says Steven Litz. “We

knew it was the place we had been looking for, for 25 years.” They knew that

their quarter century journey had come to an end; but what they did not know

was that another heartbreaking journey was just beginning. For the Litzs,

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building their dream home in Redstone, part of Pitkin County, was a story of

tears, travels, terrifying bureaucracy and ultimately triumph.

For the last 25 years, the Litzs made annual visits to Colorado to ski

and enjoy the mountain lifestyle. Each year they dreamed of buying a home,

retiring and spending their days taking in the beauty of the Rockies. During

each visit they devoted one day to looking at homes and property for sale.

In 2002, they drove to the top of Ruby Mountain Road and found the view, and

the lot, they had been dreaming of for all those years.

The Litzs wanted a handcrafted log home, so after they purchased the

property they went about finding a log homebuilder. The challenge was to

find someone they could trust and work with from more than 1,200 miles away

in their home state of Indiana. Skip Ackerman’s name kept coming up in their

research. When they located him, it turned out he lived and worked in nearby

Carbondale and was known as one of the preeminent log homebuilders. “He made

things unbelievably easy,” says Steven’s wife, Stephanie. “He took pride in

his work and wanted everything perfect.”

The Litzs also needed to find a general contractor that could manage the

entire project but soon learned that their 3,000 square foot home was of

little interest to most contractors in Pitkin County who were busy with

larger, multimillion dollar projects in nearby Aspen. The Litz’s hopes were

dashed often as they traveled from Indiana to Colorado with architect’s

drawings in hand, solely to meet with potential contractors, only to be

stood up time after time. The few builders that actually kept their

appointments were so busy they could only afford a quick 10-minute chat

regarding the Litz’s project before rushing them away, promising to be in

touch.

Then they met Tim Villiere, owner of Custom Building in Glenwood

Springs. “Tim spent the time to give us a fair bid. We felt like he put in

the most work and gave us the best customer service,” says Stephanie. “It

was my only project at that time,” says Villiere. “It was good scheduling,

and I could concentrate solely on their project.” After choosing their

builder and contractor, the Litz’s excitement grew, but as soon as they

began the permitting process they discovered that building their dream home

seemed more unlikely than it had ever been.

Although their lot was zoned and subdivided for residential development,

the Litz’s were notified that because of its 34 percent grade it exceeded

the 30 percent grade restriction for building a home in Pitkin County. A

planning and zoning hearing was scheduled where the county was expected to

deny their permit to build. However, the county regulations also stated that

in such a case of denial the county was required to purchase the land back

from the Litzs. If the county did not want to buy back the land, their

building permit would have to be approved. So, with a glimmer of hope,

Steven planned his trip to attend the hearing, at which his presence was

mandatory.

Steven’s flight to Aspen was scheduled to connect through Denver in

March 2003. His flight landed in Denver in a blizzard, and the connection to

Aspen was cancelled. A massive snowstorm had moved into Colorado, dumping

snow measured in feet. The airport soon shut down, and the roads around

Denver and west into the mountains became impassable. Knowing a flight or

drive to Aspen would not be possible from Denver, Steven found a hotel room

and hunkered down for three days while conditions progressively got worse;

the hotel ran out of food, and he learned the hearing would not be

rescheduled because of his absence. Thankfully, county officials agreed to

let Villiere attend the hearing on his behalf.

As Steven was stranded in Denver, the hearing went on just as they had

expected. The Pitkin County planning and zoning officials denied the permit

to build because of the steep grade, then ruled not to buy back the land and

subsequently granted the permit to build. Thus the building was cleared to

begin, except for a few more requirements that seemed rather silly to the

Litzs. There was the elk migration study that had to be conducted, to which

the Litzs responded that because of the steep grade the “only way for elk to

migrate through our property is to fly.” Also, there were the lighting

regulations, which were 50 pages long, as well as the road use fee that has

the Litzs, who don’t own a car in Colorado, paying the same fee as a family

with six cars because of the size of their driveway. “We had so many

warnings about building in Pitkin County,” says Stephanie, “but we thought

that if there’s a will there’s a way. Now I say I would never build in

Pitkin County again.” The Litzs say they understand the importance of the

regulations for homes in Aspen, but it is difficult to see the logic for

their home in a rural, remote area.

Once they were finally cleared to build, the Litzs enjoyed watching

their dream take form. Ackerman handcrafted the logs from dead standing timbers

and assembled the home in his yard, then disassembled, transported and

reassembled it at the home site. “Skip took so much pride in his work,” says

Steven. “He wanted everything perfect, and no corners were cut in building

this home.” Although the Litzs traveled often to see the progress of their

new home, Villiere kept them informed with almost daily photos and updates.

“The Litzs were great to work with,” says Villiere. “They wanted to use

local businesses and materials for as much of the work as possible.”

As the home took shape, Stephanie began the adventure of hunting for

particular pieces to fill the home. “It was a labor of love,” says

Stephanie. She traveled to Tennessee to pick up the custom mantle and flew

it, packed in a refrigerator box, with them to Colorado. For the master bed,

her search took her to the backwoods of North Carolina to a woodcrafter’s

backyard workshop, where she commissioned the bed directly from the man who

built it. She also shuttled her bathroom tile stuffed in her suitcase a

little at a time as she made her monthly trek to the new home site. And the

river rock used for the fireplace was reclaimed from the Crystal River that

just happens to run near the Litz’s new home.

Finally, in January 2004, the Litzs moved into their dream home. They

visit regularly, often with family and friends in tow. When asked if the

25-year journey with all the challenges of building was worth it, they both

reply with a resounding “yes!” Although, they say, “We often wondered if we

would ever get this house built.” Now they can sip their morning coffee on

their deck while enjoying the majesty of God’s Chair. Says Stephanie, “It

really gets more difficult to leave every time; it’s just us and nature

here.”

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