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."