Historic projects halted

City Council blocks renovations to structures more than 50 years old



Mark Elliott works on his house in Old Town Steamboat Springs on Tuesday. Elliott has added about 2,700 square feet to the home, which was originally a 900-square-foot structure built as early as 1914. The city's Historic Preservation Advisory Commission reviewed Elliott's home. "We just walked through and they signed off on it," he said.

— City officials have enacted a temporary ban on demolitions and exterior alterations of historic structures in Steamboat Springs.

The Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 4-2, Tuesday night to enact an "emergency moratorium" that, effective immediately, prevents city planning staff and the Routt County Regional Building Department from accepting applications "for building permits that could result in the alteration of an exterior aspect of, or demolition permits for, any historic structure." City attorney Tony Lettunich said city regulations designate any structure more than 50 years old as historic.

The emergency moratorium is effective for 90 days, but the City Council plans to approve a second, revised moratorium before that deadline. The second moratorium will address issues raised Tuesday night - such as home repairs and the rights of private property owners - and be in place for several months, likely into next spring, while an advisory committee addresses permanent changes to the city's existing historic preservation ordinance.

"This is a three-step process," Councilman Ken Brenner said, citing the emergency moratorium, the second moratorium and the formation of the advisory committee.

Councilman Loui Antonucci was absent Tuesday night.

Councilmen Steve Ivancie and Paul Strong voted against the emergency moratorium, which Ivancie said "halts any kind of building project" on homes more than 50 years old.

"When it comes to private property rights, I am not about to take something away that the community has right now," Ivancie said.

Strong asked that the second moratorium remove the exterior alteration language and apply only to demolitions of historic structures - a condition accepted by the rest of City Council.

Lettunich warned such a clause could leave an "unbelievable loophole" that would allow for massive renovation projects that fall just short of demolition and "gut a historic structure."

As it did a week ago, the discussion about historic preservation drew passionate public comment from numerous residents. Some cited a need to preserve Steamboat's heritage in the face of growth while others stressed the importance of landowner rights and drastically needed home improvement projects.

"This feeling of 'my land, my rights' is now coming right up against community rights," Partners in Preservation member Noreen Moore said to the council. "We're asking you to make a difficult decision."

Also Tuesday night, the City Council took another look at location options for a proposed recreation center planned for November's ballot. While the council approved plans for a consolidated, $34 million recreation center in July, recreation consultant Chuck Musgrave presented revised plans for separate facilities - including a youth center at Howelsen Hill and aquatic features at the Old Town Hot Springs downtown - Tuesday.

Despite several public comments supporting a consolidated facility, City Council President Susan Dellinger questioned whether the city could afford a $34 million recreation facility in addition to potential Howelsen Hill renovations, such as a new ski slope. City recreation officials introduced the potential renovations, which could cost $20 million, in a Howelsen master plan last month - after the recreation center vote.

The City Council will review ballot language for a recreation center proposal next week. City Clerk Julie Jordan said the ballot must be certified Sept. 7.


WZ 9 years, 8 months ago

Exceptions will be made if you are demolishing your historic structure to build over priced "urban" loft condo apartments and swanky commercial space.

You're a day late and a dollar short, council, again.


Tom Whiddon 9 years, 8 months ago

50 years is not historic! Maybe 100 years. There are also some butt ugly 50 year old homes that need to be demolished and there are some butt ugly buildings under construction right now that need to be demolished! Two, four six, eight, what else can we regulate!


Geary Baxter 9 years, 8 months ago

The reaction maybe different if incentives were offered for perserving the character of historic buildings. Low interest loans/grant money would be a cheap way of pointing us in the right direction. What I think is missing is a vision of what this town is going to look like in the next 10 to 20 years. Right now everything is moving so fast we are just putting out fires in an attempt to slow the change. It was the beauty of the valley and the character of the town that brought me here. I hate to see that change due to a lack of foresight and planning.


BigOil 9 years, 8 months ago

City Council disgusts me. That's all I can write.


dimwitiguess 9 years, 8 months ago

We can second guess all we want. Council has a very tough job. BigOil, maybe you need to get involved and run for council. I know you could make better decisions EVERY time. I am concerned about our city too and big money is coming into our town. Just like the Utes, we may have to change with the times, move out, or be run out - not good choices for many. It's the people of this town who need to make good decisions no matter what the regulations or lack of regulations. It seems greed is the (un)controlling factor for most, but I'm just a dimwitiguess.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 8 months ago

I am so tired of it all being blamed on greed, I remember when opulance was having a white telephone, since when is sombody having more than me defined as greed an accurate take? The only people who embrace change are babies that just crapped their pants. Think about this the value is being sucked out of a 45 year old home, it's gonna be 50 in 5 years, I am concerned my house is 30 years old, how fast time flies...............


buck 9 years, 8 months ago

More property rights taken. Is this the worst council of all time?? Is this taking even legal? Our home is 31 years old. If the czars keep the rules the same, I'll need to tear it down in 18 years and build a new home. Maybe we should just move and sell, leaving Steamboat to the fascists.


BigOil 9 years, 8 months ago

I don't understand how we can have "Downtown Renaissance" flags flying from every light pole then anytime someone does something that is renaissance-esque our "poor-can't-afford-it-need- affordable-housing-anti-Jim-Cook-leave-it- like-it-was-give-me-a-hand-out-tax-the-rich-no-big-box-haybale- green-to-a-fault" liberals complain. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance


Vince arroyo 9 years, 8 months ago

In my option The emergency 90 day Moratorium act was totally selfish. To be historical lets look at the photos at the Museum . To get a better idea. Its about the haves and the have snots in this valley, Move here and just close the door. Did any one ever close the door we they all move here? I think not.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 8 months ago

lovesteamboat, excellent essay, watcher, "hysterical society", I like that too............


Lovesteamboat 9 years, 8 months ago

The issues of energy conservation, technology, economics, building codes, and safety should take precedent over historical preservation.

The owners of the B&B in question are actually a family who reside in Steamboat, kids in our schools, etc. Just because you attempt to facilitate the construction of your own home doesn't make you a developer.

Older properties require more maintenance every year they age. At some point, the cost of upkeep is greater than the cost of substantial renovations.

It is irresponsible for a community to require a private homeowner to shoulder this financial burden alone, for the sake of another's belief in historical preservation.

Will Storm Meadows or The Lodge be considered "historic" someday soon? What if Ski Time Square were 50 years old? Would our community protect it?

It is fiscally irresponsible to forego the tax revenues created by tap fees, building permits, sales taxes on building materials, taxes related to the construction industry (payroll, income, etc), and add'l property taxes...all in the name of Historical Preservation.

How does Historical Preservation justify this loss in tax revenues? Does Historical Preservation pay for police or fire protection, teachers wages, snowplows, parks and rec?

This is an irresposible distraction for our community leaders, during a critical time planning our future growth.

The growth in Steamboat is inevitable. There simply aren't enough city officials that could draft enough ordinances to stop our growth.

As a community, what exactly are our priorities? Do we have a vision for where we'd like to be as a community in 10 years? 20 years? In 50 years? (...when all the new homes become historic)

It is irresponsible to build a $3 million community center when we start a multi-million dollar library expansion that already includes a community facility.

It is irresponsible to approve a major renovation at the SSH&Rec when we're tossing around the idea of a new facility estimated at more than $40 million dollars.

It is irresponsible to send Soda Creek kids to school in trailers literally stacked on top of one another, without ample or safe transportation solutions...when there is a huge educational facility just a few miles away in Strawberry Park, with adequate space for the additional trailers and safer transportation facilities.

Steamboat has one arm trying to hang onto the past, and the other is trying to embrace the future.

(...and relentless special interest groups of all kinds nipping away at our heals)


Watcher 9 years, 8 months ago

So, the hysterical-historical society is at it again. They seem to think every old building in town is worth saving. I say they need to pay the property owner an amount equal to what the landowner is going to lose in property value and enjoyment of their property, putting their money where their mouths are. Truth is there really aren't all that many old buildings in this town worth saving. A lot of the new ones are pretty cool. The ones where the old Steamboat Lumber company used to be, on 9th street, come to mind.

The city will also need to start saving a huge pool of money to defend and then pay out for the lawsuits that are surely to come as a result of this stupid idea.


elphaba 9 years, 8 months ago

Anybody else miss the historic lumberyard where Towny's fake victorian mansion is?


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