New Bear Ranch residence could exceed 22,000 square feet

County can approve as long as it’s “unobtrusive”

Bear Ranch, owned by billionaire Bill Koch, is seeking county approval to build a 22,712-square-foot single-family residence on the other side of Kebler Pass. The proposed building would be more than two times the threshold of 10,000 square feet that triggers the need for a land use change; it would be the first of its size in the county.



At a work session with the Gunnison County Planning Commission on May 18, Bear Ranch representative Tom Newland informed the board that the building would be located in the center of the 6,500-acre ranch; 8,200 square feet would be below grade and 15,000 feet would be above ground. It will be a private residence for Koch, primarily used over the summer, two to three weeks during winter and occasionally during hunting season.
Newland also indicated that the site was chosen for its proximity to the ranch’s other infrastructure, and topography and natural colors would be used to reduce visibility. He did not expect the building to be visible from Kebler Pass or any place outside the ranch.
The Planning Commission did ask for clarification on several details, including the structure’s visibility, heating sources and snow loads. But according to Planning Commission chairman Ramon Reed, the commission did not see any red flags. He explained that the 10,000-square-foot threshold does not limit the maximum size of Gunnison County homes.
“It’s really the limit at which you can build without going through a land use change…” he explained. “The primary difference with anything over 10,000 square feet is that it has to be considered unobtrusive.”
And while that might sound nebulous, Reed continued, it’s clearly defined in the county’s Land Use Resolution (LUR). The LUR dictates that the visibility must be minimized through location and screening, which can include natural land forms such as a large hill that will limit visibility of the proposed building.
“It’s something you have to consider within the context of where the building is going and that’s really the number one criteria that gets looked at with a building of this size,” Reed said.
The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Bear Ranch application on June 20 at 11 a.m.

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