The Historic Preservation Advisory Commission asked the Steamboat Springs City Council to step up its efforts in preserving residential properties in the city.
The commission met with the council Tuesday night and noted that though the city has been extremely successful in preserving commercial buildings, more could be done for residences.
The city has standards in place for changes or additions to commercial buildings but only incentive-based programs for residences, the commission members said. The incentives given to homeowners are sales tax rebates from the city for building materials and state income tax credits, and they are given only to those residences on the state and national registers of historic places.
The commission asked that the board educate homeowners about historic preservation options before plans are drawn and money is spent. As the planning process is set up, Commissioner Lara Craig said, when plans are presented to the board, it often is too late for the homeowner to want to make any changes.
"We see everyone at the very, very end of the process," Craig said.
Another request was to increase the maximum fine for those who demolish historical buildings without a permit.
Owners and builders can be fined up to $999 for demolishing a historic house without a permit. The commissioners pointed to regulations in other communities, such as Aspen, that have fines based on the cost of the project and have higher limits to discourage demolition.
If a home in a historic area is destroyed, the commission members said, they would like to review new construction plans for that home.
The board also wanted to see changes to the city's design guidelines in Old Town to regulate the mass and scale of homes. Commissioners worried about an increasing trend in Old Town, in which historic buildings were razed and replaced with much larger homes, which don't fit with the neighborhood's character.
A final request was to work toward creating a national historic district in Steamboat Springs, which would give federal tax credits to residents following historic preservation guidelines in restoring their homes.
Council members agreed that more needed to be done to encourage historic preservation, but some worried about the effects the commission's suggestions could have on property owners.
"We have many local, working families living in historical places. We don't want to push them out of their homes," Councilwoman Kathy Connell said.