City mulls historical rule

Buildings older than 50 may get extra protection

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— The city of Steamboat Springs is working on an ordinance that would require developers to have a historical structure assessment completed before submitting plans for certain projects.

The ordinance recently came before the city's planning commission, which unanimously tabled it because of questions that arose during the meeting. City staff members said they are revising the ordinance and that it's possible the ordinance will not come before city officials again.

As presented, the ordinance would be an amendment to the city's development code. The ordinance would apply to applications to alter or demolish historical structures -- those more than 50 years old -- in three downtown zone districts and would be required for pre-applications, development plans or final development plans. The ordinance proposes that the city pay for half of the assessment, which city staff members said could cost as much as $10,000.

According to a staff memo, the ordinance would "assist decision makers in evaluating applications involving the alteration or demolition of historic structures in the downtown business district." The ordinance also would help planning commissioners and the City Council determine whether "it is economically feasible for the owner to continue using the historic structure."

City staff said the idea for the ordinance came from Paul Hughes, former city manager.

In their meeting, planning commissioners brought up several questions about the ordinance. Commissioners wanted to know if the ordinance would apply to buildings older than 50 years, or if they had to be registered as historical. They asked how developers would be notified of this potential requirement and when developers should be told about it. Commissioners debated whether the city should provide money to pay for a portion of assessments or not. They also discussed whether the city should commission the study or whether the developer should.

Linda Kakela, the city's intergovernmental services director, said the ordinance is just one tool the city is considering.

"We're trying to engage property owners in understanding community character and how their building contributes to that character," Kakela said.

The historical structure assessments, she said, "would help guide property owners in assessing the integrity of the structure and also how they can make the changes they want to make while keeping the historic character."

Kakela said the proposed ordinance is just one way that the city is trying to provide incentives and information to property owners concerning community character. The city is finishing a maintenance plan for historical structures that would provide information to owners of historical buildings.

Also, Kakela said a 3-D software application highlighting Main Street could serve as a detailed planning tool for the city. The planning commission recently viewed a presentation of a program called CommunityViz, which provides geographic information systems-based analysis and real-world 3-D modeling to allow people to visualize land uses.

"The information we get from this model should be able to lo ok at the social and economic impacts of land use," Kakela said. That could help decision makers determine what might best contribute to the vitality of downtown.

--o reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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