Sunday, September 30, 2007
I confess. I don't attend every City Council meeting, and I don't read the meeting minutes. But I hope to help clear up misconceptions about the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission.
Within the Community Development Code are official historic design guidelines. These were not plucked from the air. They result from consultation with experts in the field, adopted as part of the CDC by elected city officials. The commissioners on the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission volunteer to serve for a minimum of three years, are chosen for their knowledge and experience and are educated in historic preservation. We are not "the East," but we can learn something from those historical, charming places. They retain such charm because they had the foresight to preserve their heritage.
Historic design guidelines were never intended as adversarial to homeowners, but rather as a helpful outline to enhance and add on to property while retaining historic integrity. Necessity of guidelines is for everyone's protection. There is a misperception that a historic designation limits rights of property owners. Not true.
Economic studies show values of properties in historic neighborhoods go up. Aspen guidelines offer incentives to builders and homeowners, and their properties increased enormously from their preservation efforts.
Our community seems angry about City Council's decision to take action on the historic property issue. There is a misunderstanding of the intent of the City Council and HPAC. Many blame HPAC for the decision of the City Council. HPAC is required to provide a semi-annual report to City Council, and the report brought to the council's attention that voluntary compliance with historic design guidelines has never been effective. Therefore, we have lost many structures in the downtown area, and some home additions have dwarfed the neighboring homes.
Many downtown properties are in compliance. Seventh Street has homes that are renovated and in compliance with historic design guidelines. There are homes on Seventh Street that are eligible for historic registration, and the neighborhood is close to being eligible for state historic designation.
A map was circulated identifying all homes within city limits that are 50 years old or older. The assumption has been made that all homes would be affected by a mandatory historic preservation code. Incorrect - a survey is done every year, and very few properties are eligible for historic designation.
HPAC meets twice a month. If you feel strongly for or against preservation, attend these meetings. Historic design guidelines have not been read by everyone, so there have been misconceptions.
The moratorium is short and simple. City Council has given the community time to discuss the past and the future. A forum is provided in which that can be done. There is a timeline for the resolution of discussion, and all ideas are welcome. HPAC is in total agreement with that decision.
HPAC is presented with designs that do not in any way comply with historic design guidelines. If you are an architect or contractor, it is your responsibility to be aware of all guidelines within the CDC. If you haven't done that, it is irresponsible.
If you are a resident of Steamboat, feel strongly about historic preservation. Why not become informed about government decisions that are made on your behalf? If you feel this is not in the best interest of the community, speak up. If you feel it is in the best interest of the community, speak up. I have served on HPAC five years, but I am not writing this letter on behalf of HPAC. I believe in foresight and hope that in hindsight we will find we have made good decisions.