If you go
What: Historic Structure Policy Review Committee public hearing
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Centennial Hall, 129 10th St.
Call: City offices at 879-2060 for more information
Steamboat Springs A committee of citizens reviewing the city of Steamboat Springs' historic preservation policies will hold its first public hearing tonight.
All of the Historic Structure Policy Review Committee's weekly meetings have been open to the public thus far, but public feedback will be the sole focus of tonight's open house. A second public hearing is scheduled for March 17. The committee plans to submit a proposed ordinance to the Steamboat Springs City Council by the end of the month.
"The conclusion we're getting to is that existing ordinances have frustrated and disappointed the members of the community," committee Chairman Jim Moylan said in an interim report to City Council on Tuesday.
The current preservation system is one of mandatory review, but voluntary compliance. Development applications involving properties more than 50 years old are subject to review by the city's Historic Preservation Advisory Commission. But the most that body can do is make recommendations for projects that might alter the historic character of any historic structure, and impose up to a 90-day waiting period on such projects.
Moylan said the committee already has arrived at several recommendations to replace existing policies. He recommended that the city create its own historic register and pay for an inventory of all properties in the city, to determine which structures are eligible for listing. Actual listing, however, would be subject to the owner's consent. Only eligible properties that opt to be included on the register would be subject to mandatory design guidelines, Moylan said. He also said the committee will strongly encourage City Council to adopt honorary and financial incentives for properties that meet the design guidelines.
Moylan said listing criteria would be based on more significant measures than an arbitrary age such as 50 years.
The most controversial of the committee's recommendations is for the city to establish "conservation overlay zones to protect and preserve neighborhood character." Such zones are used in other U.S. communities to protect the architectural character of historic neighborhoods by managing growth and change. Overlay zoning is applied in addition to the standard land use zoning of an area. Some council members and members of the public said implementing such zones would go too far.
"I still have real concerns listening to the description of the overlay zones," Councilwoman Cari Hermacinski said. "We're right back where we started with this issue with mandatory compliance."
Old Town resident Evie Freet agrees. She said the overlay zoning recommendation "set us all aback."
"It's just an issue that throws a whole new slant into historic preservation," Freet said Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Moylan tried to reassure City Council that an overlay zone is not the same as a historic preservation district, which would have more rigorous regulations.
"I think we're pretty much in accord that the city not mandate historic preservation districts," Moylan said. "Hopefully we'll find that we're all on the same page."
During public comment Tuesday, Old Town resident John Fielding said he supports voluntary compliance, but also doesn't want to see a truly historic structure demolished or ruined.
"We do need to create a process where council steps in : to do something to prevent the loss of truly important structures," Fielding said.
Hermacinski also expressed a concern that the committee's recommendations would make it too easy for future legislators to mandate preservation.
"Do you think making the listing voluntary puts us one step closer to it being mandatory?" Hermacinski asked Moylan. "It's a dangerous way to go, and I'm scared that we're setting ourselves up for that next step."