Mike Lawrence: To preserve and protect

Crested Butte strictly controls historic structures


Mike Lawrence

Call Mike Lawrence at 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

On Elk Avenue in downtown Crested Butte, the owner of a commercial business recently applied for a permit to put "shed dormers" - upright windows topped with a gable on a sloping roof - onto the second story of his building.

His application was denied.

Crested Butte's Board of Zoning and Architectural Review turned down the request because no other historic building in the area has dormers. The board said the renovation would be "excessively dissimilar" from nearby structures, and cited policies in the "Historic Preservation and Architectural Control" policy, Section 15-2-22 of Crested Butte's town code.

Crested Butte has had the policy since 1974. Its language is strict.

"Any erection, moving, demolition, reconstruction, restoration, improvement or alteration of any structure shall be prohibited unless the Board shall first review the plans and grant permission for said change in the structure," the policy states. "No building permit shall be issued unless the Board shall first review and approve the architectural appropriateness of the proposed structure, except in the case (that) said structure or structural change is deemed by the Board to be insubstantial."

Molly Minneman, the town's historic preservation officer and design review coordinator, said Tuesday that most property owners in Crested Butte support the policy - until it impacts their own home or business.

"Of course we have people who question whether our design review process is appropriate for them," Minneman said. "The ordinance allows the board to deny changes to a building and deny demolitions of historic buildings under the town code."

There are obvious differences between Crested Butte and Steamboat Springs, where city officials are considering historic preservation issues. The most obvious is population - 1,554 in Crested Butte as of July 2006, compared to 9,315 people in Steamboat.

And with the longevity of Crested Butte's ordinance, most owners bought their property with knowledge of the town's preservation policies. Implementing new ordinances for current property owners in Steamboat will arguably be the touchiest part of any local conversation about historic preservation.

Minneman said Crested Butte recently underwent a very public, small-town-style evaluation of preservation issues.

"In the past four years, there was a period of time when the board was under a fair amount of public scrutiny. The question was loosely and informally posed about whether having a BOZAR was appropriate," Minneman said, inspiring images of heated debates among locals on mountain bike trails or in Elk Avenue restaurants and bars.

"For the most part, people said, 'Yes, it is appropriate, we just don't always like what happens,'" Minneman said. "The ordinance keeps a level playing field - it maintains equal property values across the board."

She added that the ordinance preserves Crested Butte's small-town feel, a quality many longtime locals say is slipping away in Steamboat.

"There are people who move to Crested Butte because they like the sense of community the town has maintained," Minneman said. "They're not always happy when they have to abide by that, when it comes to their renovation or addition, but, for the most part, they have become accustomed to this level of regulation."


Steve Lewis 9 years, 8 months ago

I hope the council noticed Tuesday night: People making public comment against the demolition moratorium were not typical of opposition they've seen before, but a new cross section they'll likely be seeing more of - property owners concerned about their property rights. Steve Lewis


comtboy 9 years, 8 months ago

I hope council stands by their decision to protect the heritage and historical value of our town. Steamboat was built upon the heritage of its downtown with the cowboy town flavor and it would be a tragedy to see it go the way of so many of our resort towns in Colorado. To see landmarks altered and destroyed because someone sees a buck in it is a shame. To see an historic home modified because the new owner (who by the way lives in it three weeks out of the year) wants to make it feel like a bungalow in Southern California is a disservice to the men and women who built Steamboat to be what it is.

Having grown up in Steamboat I have watched the town evolve and mature while keeping the distinct Steamboat flavor that draws so many people to it. But in recent years this seems to be changing somewhat with the loss of several of our downtown buildings to "mini malls" that provide more retail space per square foot of land. If our heritage is not protected then the very thing that brings the life blood of the city could be in question... after all, who wants to ski Breckenridge II.


comtboy 9 years, 8 months ago

As a property owner I respect the rights each one of us have, but having lived in a covenant controlled community at many points over my lifetime I also see the value of rights with responsibility!

Contrary to what some believe this kind of stringent monitoring does not negatively affect property values, but has completely the opposite affect. If you look to the Northeastern US in places like New Hampshire, Mass, NY, etc you will find that many of the areas that have placed restrictions like this on the properties are some of the most coveted areas to live and work. Would it mean less t-shirt shops downtown? Maybe, but that is probably not a bad thing.

One very ignorant individual posted comments (http://www.steamboatpilot.com/news/2007/aug/19/city_could_add_teeth_preservation_law/?local_news; BigOil) a few days ago that completely shocked and dismayed me. Obviously this individual has not come to love and respect the Steamboat Springs that I grew up with... that is my heritage.

I cannot tell you the number of times in high school that go-fer foods was the meeting place before going out or the number of times that we had our family car fixed by Bob Logan and his team at Bob's Conoco... these buildings have no historic value? They represent what our town was built on! The entrepreunerial spirit of the individuals who sacrificed so much to make Steamboat what it is today. To minimize that by "taking a bulldozer to it" is simply disrespectful.

Lewi, who are you talking about? The ephemeral property owners who have come to Steamboat since the '90's or the people who have weathered Steamboat's ups and downs? As far as I am concerned the people who have the greatest say in this are those that went through the recession in the 80's; the small business owners who lived through winter droughts and poor ski seasions yet still managed to keep Steamboat a vibrant town.

To paraphrase "people like this kind of regulation until they have to deal with it". Most of the comments I have seen are about very selfish individual motivations and are not about the respect and responsibility that comes with property ownership in a town like Steamboat with such a strong heritage.


jaunty 9 years, 8 months ago

Mike, thanks for writing about this important topic.

Question for the Today/Pilot staff: Are you sure that the former Steamboat B&B, which a developer wants to tear down, was built in 1948? I think it dates back to the early 1900s, when it was a church. Look at the very old photos of Steamboat, and there is a church in that exact spot.

This building was eventually home to the Euzoa Bible Church. In the 1980s it was struck by lightning, then remodeled into a B&B despite some outcry about locating a lodging business in a residential neighborhood.

Can you research this, please? Was this structure really built in 1948 or close to the turn of the last century, very early 1900s?


Steve Lewis 9 years, 8 months ago

I'm glad I chose this blog. The moratorium article's blog went downhill fast. Comtboy, I'll respond to your comments in order. [Landmarks altered and destroyed] This is a matter of opinion.] Not everyone was a fan of the Harbour Hotel. I believe we followed our rules in the end. Which supports your larger argument of having these new rules.

[To see an historic home modified because the new owner (who by the way lives in it three weeks out of the year) wants to make it feel like a bungalow in Southern California is a disservice to the men and women who built Steamboat to be what it is.] The opposite is the case, typically our older homes house our permanent, but least wealthy residents. Why is it a new owner? We've been in ours for 18 years. Been in Steamboat 28 years. We built this community too.

[Ialso see the value of rights with responsibility! Contrary to what some believe this kind of stringent monitoring does not negatively affect property values, but has completely the opposite affect.] I agree for the neighbor's values, as if they needed further increase, but for the affected property the costs of carrying a 80 year old house another 60 years will be significant. Energy is my main concern as old houses are poorly insulated. We already do not heat our upstairs. Though we won't be selling, this means my house is worth less the day they placed this moratorium and for many years ahead. Our house is 105 years old. We want to preserve it, of our own volition. We do not want the government as an uninvited, uncontributing, but dominant partner in OUR HOME. I continue to ask those who advocate this coming ordinance: If you want me to live with its restrictions on my home, will you volunteer to apply it completely to your home too? I've had no takers. I've suggested that this should be like a conservation easement that is voluntary, with terms agreeable to each owner. Just keep the government out of my home, please.


Steve Lewis 9 years, 8 months ago

By the way, my name is Steve Lewis. I live at 410 Pine. Check it out, I think we lifted our neighbors values enough already. Well, Linda did all the work.


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)


jeep 9 years, 8 months ago

maybe that's where JIM COOK want's to put BOB"S conaco gas station


BigOil 9 years, 8 months ago

In the end it's you against me. What you think & value vs. what I think and value. No one wins in that situation because it's completely subjective. So the only way to remove the subjectivity is to defer to property rights. If I own a property I should be able to improve the property as I see fit - it's mine. You might not like it, you might feel it's counter to the "glory days" and it's your right to feel that way. But the government should not step in to protect your feelings over protecting my rights as a property owner. The rights of property owners is a much greater issue than the way you feel about something. The reality is that it is a very slippery slope once the government starts sticking its fat finger in this.

Can we please take down the "Downtown Renaissance" flags now?


BigOil 9 years, 8 months ago

Just so we are clear. The fifth and the fourteenth amendment to the United States constitution provides explicitly for the protection of private property:

The Fifth Amendment states:

"Nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

in my view restricting what a property owner can do for the sake of historical value is for all intents and purposes "public use." the only value to something being historic is for the enjoyment of the public.

The Fourteenth Amendment states:

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."

Have we really had "due process of law" here? I'm not sure a hasty decision at a city council meeting passes the smell test of "due process of law."


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