Preservation ordinance excludes mandatory designations

Citizens group proposes all-voluntary historic preservation rules


If you go

What: Steamboat Springs City Council meeting

When: 5 p.m. today

Where: Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information


- 5 p.m. A proclamation recognizing National Kite Month; community reports on the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board, the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association marketing contract and the Historic Structure Policy Review Committee's final report; a resolution to approve a public art project at Little Toots Park; a resolution pledging matching money for a Federal Aviation Administration grant to purchase new snow removal equipment for the Steamboat Springs Airport; second reading of ordinances

- 7 p.m. Public comment; Planning Commission referrals; pre-application review of the St. Cloud Resort & Spa

— A committee that has spent months reviewing the city's historic preservation policies will recommend a new ordinance that does not mandate the preservation of any of Steamboat's historic structures.

The committee will present its report at tonight's Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. The committee was formed last year after the issue of historic preservation came to a head when the previous City Council, alarmed by an increase in demolition permits for old buildings, placed an emergency moratorium on demolitions and significant alterations to structures more than 50 years old.

The Historic Structure Policy Review Committee later was formed to review the city's preservation policies and recommend changes. The city's current ordinances mandate that the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission review any project that could alter the character of buildings more than 50 years old, but compliance with HPAC recommendations is voluntary. After a maximum 90-day waiting period on such projects, property owners are free to proceed as they like.

In crafting their ordinance, committee members were forced to weigh the interests of private property rights against the protection of community resources. Committee chairman Jim Moylan said the proposed ordinance he will present tonight probably will please property-rights advocates more than preservationists. The ordinance would create a local historic register, and listing on the register would be voluntary. Once listed, structures would be subject to mandatory design guidelines and demolition criteria.

Former councilman and historic preservationist Towny Anderson said the ordinance is no better than existing policies.

"There's still no protection for our most significant historic resources," Anderson said. "If listing is voluntary, then everything that follows listing is voluntary. As long as the listing is voluntary, then you don't have mandatory compliance."

Recognizing that the committee was not comfortable with mandatory compliance, Anderson and others pushed the committee to consider mandating the preservation of at least a few of Steamboat's most historic structures, such as the Crawford House.

"That was a real tussle," Moylan said.

The ordinance would create two tiers of historic structures: local landmarks and historic resources.

"It's harder to become a landmark, and demolishing them would be almost prohibited except in really extraordinary circumstances," Moylan said.

The listing of a local landmark, though, still would be voluntary.

"The committee wouldn't go there," Moylan said. "Nothing was going to be mandatory."

Moylan said that even those on the committee with preservationist leanings realized that "politically, it may just doom the entire ordinance."

"I think the feeling was the City Council was not going to go along with mandatory preservation," Moylan said.

Anderson agreed.

"Clearly this committee tried to come up with something that would be amenable to this council," Anderson said. "This community is not ready for it. It will take the loss of one or more beloved properties before this community will move to protect its historic assets."

Moylan said if the committee is wrong in its assessment of the council's appetite for mandatory compliance, it would take only "a couple pen strokes" to amend the ordinance.

The committee abandoned its consideration of conservation overlay zones. The creation of such zones, which are used in other U.S. cities to protect the architectural character of historic neighborhoods by managing growth and change, came under criticism when the committee presented its interim report to the council last month.

The ordinance provides an avenue for two or more residents of a neighborhood to have it named a historic district, but the residents of such districts are not subject to any regulation beyond the city's existing zoning policies. The committee will recommend that the city revisit those policies in the Old Town, Fairview and Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The proposed ordinance would tighten the city's definition of a historic structure as one eligible for listing on the local historic register rather than one merely 50 years old or older. The Historic Preservation Advisory Commission would be renamed the Historic Preservation Commission under the proposed ordinance and would be responsible for designating a property's listing on the local historic register. Unlisted properties that are eligible for listing still would be subject to review by the new commission if someone proposed to demolish, add to or alter them. The commission would advise the property owner of his or her structure's historic nature and the benefits of listing the building. Similar to existing policies, the commission could impose a maximum 30-day waiting period on such projects, after which property owners would be free to proceed as they like.

"I think this ordinance is much more comprehensive," Moylan said. "It's much more understandable. I think it's a lot tighter than what we have."

Triple Crown

City Council was scheduled to hold the first reading of an ordinance extending its contract with Triple Crown Sports through 2010. The reading of that ordinance has been postponed so council members can first meet with Triple Crown officials. Triple Crown has put forth a controversial proposal to use fields at Emerald Park in 2009 and 2010. Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski said postponing the ordinance also will allow for officials in Hayden to discuss the possible use of fields in that town instead of Emerald Park.


424now 9 years ago

And that is presumably that, on this issue.


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