Thinking small: Westside couple plans custom house on 1,600 SF lot

       It's a small lot, but Carter and Marsha True have big plans for it. At a time when many couples long for vast estates, the Trues are looking at living on a Westside lot of 1,650 square feet.
       The house they plan to build, a craftsman-style of 600 square feet, is actually smaller than the sagging, 103-year-old rancher that used to be at 11 N. 17th St.
       “You can create usable space through intelligent design,” said Carter True, describing research he's put into the subject. A self-employed finish carpenter, he said the idea is to create “a small, compact envelope” that is user-friendly and easy on utilities and lawn care. “Most people don't play roller derby in their living room. That's what the park is for.”
       There was no saving the house that used to be on the lot. “It was trashed and really out of level,” according to True. “I could have spent months trying to fix it, or start over and not spend any money on maintenance for 30 years.”
       Watching last week as the old place was being demolished, he said, “I've talked to the neighbors. They were thrilled. One said it should have come down 20 years ago.”
       Once the debris is cleared and he has a building permit, his plan is to start constructing the new house as soon as possible. Subcontractors will put in the basic structure, and “then it will just be me working inside for the next six months,” True elaborated. The finish is to be stucco with wood trim.
       He and his wife, who do not plan to have children, are thinking about living in the house and even retiring there. A fallback plan would have it become an “executive rental,” he said. They currently live in another (larger) old house that Carter renovated, in the 2500 block of W. St. Vrain St.
       Abutting an alley to the north, the 11 N. 17th lot evidently was once the back half of the property that faces onto Pikes Peak Avenue at the northeast corner of 17th, and was split off years ago.
       The property is so small that even to build a house on almost the same footprint as the old one (about 30 feet by 20 feet), the Trues need variances from the city on the lot size (5,000 square feet is the minimum in an R-2 zone) and front and rear-yard setbacks. They're asking for 9 feet on the former (partly to make room for a front porch) and 11 feet on the latter (to allow a single parking space); the code says 25 feet for either one.
       One of the reasons the Trues decided to go to all this effort was simply liking the neighborhood, Carter said. He thinks his house will be augment it. An example is the front porch, surrounded by xeriscaping and lined up with the house to the north and others nearby. According to a letter from Carter to the city, “Since I've placed the steps to the front porch on the side rather than the front, leaving room for plantings, I think this will create a sense of continuity with the house next door, and eliminate the 'porch on the sidewalk' feel this house once had.”
       In all, he said, “It's a great little neighborhood.”
       Certainly, no one can say he and his wife are making it too big.

Westside Pioneer article