City Planning Commission to consider variance for house on hill’s garage

       Fifteen years ago, Steve Hennings bought a hillside piece of property that may have the broadest range of views on the Westside. “You'd have to stand on the deck to understand,” the excavating/demolition specialist said of his recently built two-level home on 1.27 acres at 1605 S. 26th St.
       Actually, the deck, which overlooks the city, is only half the story. Across from the front porch can be seen the future 26th Street trailhead to Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
       Still, no one can say Hennings had a rosy path in building the 3,000-square-foot house and adjacent 2,600-square-foot garage/storage facility for himself and his wife Rena. Doing much of the work himself - including the use of recycled brick, wood and other materials from buildings his company (Western Excavating & Wrecking) has demolished over the years - he reported being burglarized a dozen times during construction, with losses totaling $18,000.
       Also lost was time, as a consequence of his erecting a garage that was larger than code and not obtaining a building permit for it. These mistakes, which he freely admits to, have stalled his landscaping work for the past two years while the issues have worked their way through the city administrative process.
       The size issue may be close to resolution. Heather Rose of City Planning said this week she plans to recommend approval of Hennings' request for a variance to allow the garage to remain as built. It is slightly higher than the 16-foot height limit and, at 2,604 square feet (about 30 by 50 feet), exceeds the 1,650 square-foot maximum. The matter is slated to go before Planning Commission at its monthly meeting Thursday, May 1.
       One of the reasons the variance can't be approved by staff is that a couple of his neighbors have offered concerns. One alleges that Hennings plans to use the oversized garage for his business; another, evidently thinking the same way, criticizes the unsightliness of the equipment on the property and decries “the increased traffic that will result if approved.”
       He hopes to convince commission members that he has no intention of using the garage commercially. “I have a hard time getting away from my business,” said Hennings, who has an office is on the east side at 3617 Betty Drive and an equipment yard south of Colorado Springs. “I sure wouldn't want to move it to my house.”
       According to Rose's findings, “it doesn't appear he is running a business. If we find out later that he is running a business on his property, we will do our typical enforcement on any business being run out of the house.”
       As for the equipment situation, Hennings described it as a “Catch 22”: The only way for him not to have equipment on the property is to let him use it to finish the project.
       If the request is denied by Planning Commission, the city would have the potential option of making him tear the garage down, Rose said.
       The garage was built extra-large to store two main vehicles: his RV and boat, Hennings explained. Having them inside instead of outside will not only make for a nicer view from the street, but they will be more secure and safe (a high wind nearly pushed the boat off the hill one night), he said.
       His recycled materials have come from such notable past structures as the Antlers parking garage, the Chuckwagon Pavilion at the Garden of the Gods and a former Christian school on St. Vrain Street near Bristol Elementary. Some of the school's bricks were also used on the garage facade, said Hennings, who has lived or worked on the Westside about 30 years in all.
       Asked how much the entire project has cost him, his simple answer was “a lot.” The foundation alone came to $150,000, including I-beam piers that were sunk more than 50 feet into the hillside, he said.
       The location has proved interesting in unexpected ways. The prominent house and garage sit by themselves off 26th Street, with the nearest neighbor being a City Street Division facility to the south. “When I was building this, a lot of people thought it was a hotel,” Hennings said. “There's more traffic here than the Parade of Homes. It's almost like a tourist attraction.”

Westside Pioneer article