Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Editorial Board, May 2008 to August 2008
- Bryna Larsen, publisher
- Brent Boyer, editor
- Mike Lawrence, city editor
- Tom Ross, reporter
- Eric Morris, community representative
- Paul Draper, community representative
Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or email@example.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.
Several significant hurdles remain for the volunteer citizens committee charged with recommending a new historic preservation ordinance for the city of Steamboat Springs, but the group's work thus far is both encouraging and appropriate.
To the point, we support the Historic Structure Policy Review Committee's draft ordinance proposing two levels of historic property designation - "landmark" and "historic." Landmark properties would be those that have "overwhelming historic or architectural importance and significance to the entire community." Properties designated simply as historic would fit a lesser level of eligibility criteria.
What the committee is yet to work out is the procedure for landmark designation - i.e., whether property owner compliance with the rules and regulations of the designation is mandatory or voluntary.
Of course, this question of compliance is precisely what led City Council to form the citizens committee. The historic preservation issue came to a head last fall, when the city was handling a high number of demolition permits for Old Town residences. Historic preservation advocates and the previous City Council expressed concern that the existing city ordinance wasn't doing enough to protect some of Steamboat's historic structures.
The current ordinance is problematic for a number of reasons. One, it defines historic structures as any buildings more than 50 years old. Most residents agree there are many homes and buildings older than 50 that possess little historic significance and value. And though the ordinance mandates that the Historic Preservation Advisory Commission review any project that could alter the character of old buildings and homes, 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.
We're optimistic the work of the Historic Structure Policy Review Committee can find an appropriate middle ground to appease property rights advocates and historic preservationists. Key to the committee's success is making it mandatory for owners of landmark historic properties to follow preservation guidelines. We encourage the committee to consider adopting eligibility criteria similar to that used by for the National Register of Historic Places. As committee chairman Jim Moylan said Monday, landmark structures should have to meet "very, very strict criteria." Owners could appeal the designation.
On the flip side, we support the idea of voluntary consent for listing on a city register of historic properties - not to be confused with landmark properties. As stated in the draft ordinance, owners who list their properties would be eligible to receive benefits such as reduced or waived planning and design fees, regulatory relief and city sales tax rebates on materials used for renovating or restoring historic structures.
Owners not interested in listing their eligible properties could be subject to a temporary waiting period on any alterations or demolitions, providing time for a Historic Preservation Commission to discuss the matter with the property owner. The duration of the waiting period should be kept as short as possible.
The preservation issue has brought out fervent supporters of personal property rights and historic preservation. Identifying the city's most significant historic structures and preserving them for future generations is a worthy goal. Encouraging property owners of slightly less significant historic structures to list their homes or buildings for protection is, we think, an appropriate compromise.
Finally, we urge City Council to strongly consider whatever ordinance the committee brings forward. Honoring the work of a volunteer group of residents charged with such a difficult task will go a long way toward encouraging future civic involvement.