Our View: This old house

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Editorial Board, Sept. 25, 2011, to January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

There’s more than a little irony in the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s plans to demolish a 100-year-old building and replace it with a new structure to house its historic collections. But despite the oddity of an organization dedicated to preserving local history opting to destroy a building that dates to the first years of Steamboat Springs’ incorporation, we agree that the building simply doesn’t have the historical significance to justify the extra effort and cost of saving it.

Because of that, we support the museum’s expansion plans, as well as the decision of the Planning Commission to approve them. We anticipate the Steamboat Springs City Council will follow suit, giving a final green light to a project that will provide a modern and safe facility for the storage of important Steamboat Springs and Routt County historic artifacts.

Not everyone agrees with the plans, in particular a group of passionate local preservationists who argue that demolishing the old building instead of rehabilitating it violates an ethic of preservation that should be held by all keepers of local history and heritage, including the museum’s board of directors.

We’re compelled by the dissenters’ belief that the museum’s choice to push forward with new construction instead of renovation of the existing building sets an anti-preservation standard for other property owners. “If the Tread of Pioneers Museum can tear down a building eligible for listing on a historic register, why can’t I?” the group wrote rhetorically in a letter to the museum’s board of directors.

The biggest potential impact of the museum’s plans might not be the loss of a 1900-era building, but rather the future of the Historic Preservation Commission, which voted, 3-1, to support the demolition. It could be extremely difficult for the commission to influence future property owners in regards to making the effort and absorbing the additional costs to restore their potentially historic buildings rather than raze them and start anew. If nothing else, the commission’s decision in regards to the Tread of Pioneers Museum project will make its job harder in the future.

But ultimately, we’re more swayed by the position of museum board member Jayne Hill and others that the building at 219 Eighth St. simply doesn’t possess the historical significance to warrant denial of the development plan. Not only does the building lack any outstanding architectural features, it doesn’t appear to have played any particularly meaningful role in Steamboat’s history. Further, it’s extremely inadequate for its current function and doesn’t meet existing building codes. The museum board even tried to give away the house, but it had no takers.

We support historic preservation, but the threshold should involve more than a structure’s age. In this case, the community and its cultural heritage will be better served with a new building suited to preserving and displaying important historic artifacts.

Comments

Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

"The museum board even tried to give away the house, but it had no takers. "

The dissenters had a perfect opportunity to take the bull by the horns, but chose to run away instead. I guess the tax liability & financial burden were more compelling than their alleged "ethic." It seems they only have the courage of their convictions by coercing other people to pay for them.

You got it wrong, Pilot. Towny & co. aren't "passionate." They're sanctimonious hypocrites.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

"sanctimonious hypocrites" ? And yampavalleyboy is cheering the insult. Of course.

Does it matter to you that Towny signed the letter asking to preserve that structure? How is that hypocritical?

How can one be sanctimonious when discussing the actions of one's own program?

And yes, he lives in Steamboat.

Have a nice holiday.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

lewi:

You are illustrative of the old adage that “people who don't get it don't get that they don't get it.” I suspect this will amount to pi$$ing into the wind, but I'll chance it and take a shower afterwards.

Let us assume, for the sake of conversation, that you own a property in Steamboat. I would never be so holier-than-thou (unlike Towny & Co.) to dictate how you should go about improving it – whether you intend new paint, major or minor structural/architectural changes, or razing it to the ground. As long as your efforts comply with relevant codes and statutes, they're none of my effing business – regardless of how strongly I object to whatever changes you intend to make.

Let us further assume that you are nonetheless aware of my objections and offer me the property FOR FREE – so I can indulge my self-righteous objection to everything you stand for to my heart's content. But wait – I'm just one guy, and maybe I can't afford to assume the tax liability and maintenance/repair/compliance costs on my own. Luckily, it turns out that I'm just one member of an organization of some number of other like-minded do-gooders - let's say, oh, I don't know... Historic Routt County. But, somehow, we can't find the ba11$ to step up to the plate and put our own skin in the game. So instead, we petition The State to arbitrarily terminate your initiative. That you are scrupulously in compliance with the applicable rules & regs is irrelevant. My feelings ought to be the only consideration, and The State should be obliged to do whatever I decree. Because that's the way I want it. And what I want is all that really matters.

Were I you, I would regard me as Sanctimonious and Hypocritical.

But that's just me.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

Sep, The actual event is far simpler than your fiction. Why bother talking about some fiction that never happened?

Towny did not petition the state to restrict a third party's rights. He petitioned the museum board to change their mind about their own property. You find some foul in that?

Towny's petition veers from his previous policy positions in Steamboat? Not that I can see.

So no, I "don't get" the logic of your unfriendly criticism of Towny. Please explain what is hypocritical or sanctimonious about the actual events.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

lewi:

In addition to the museum board, the petition was sent along to the city planning staff (the State, in other words), in an explicit attempt to have the property placed on the historic register – a designation that would have killed the project outright.

Returning to my analogy: it is sanctimonious of me (and that's being charitable) to enlist government bureaucrats to dictate what you can and cannot do with YOUR property. My sanctimony is even more egregious in light of your having offered the property free of charge, for me and my gaggle of busybodies to do with as we please. But we can't be bothered with something so pedestrian as property ownership, even if it consecrates our sacred “ethic.” We'd rather you assume those responsibilities and financial burdens, and accept that we know better than you what you should do with them. So do what we tell you, and don't expect us to do any of the heavy lifting. We can talk the talk, by God. Seven days a week, and twice on Sunday. But walk the walk?! You must be joking!

Hell, not only am I a sanctimonious hypocrite, I'm a coward as well.

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CedarBeauregard 3 years ago

Sep- Historic preservationist don't consider a moved building to have Historical value.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

CedarBeauregard:

I'm afraid I don't understand your point.

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spidermite 3 years ago

Cedar. I know of a log cabin, in Routt County, that was listed in the historic register after it was relocated.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

Sep, Please refer to the actual event, which is straightforward. If your argument only works via analogy, your argument is false. Never mind that Towny petitioned the owner directly. Your complaint is that he should not petition the City as well.

A parcel's use, if it meets some boundary of the code, is routinely reviewed by City planning staff and often City Council. Each such hearing has a time set aside for public comment. Such comment may also be entered in writing.

You seem to say that anyone other than the owner who steps forward using that opportunity to object to the parcel's use is a sanctimonious hypocrite and also a coward.

Sep, none of this event comes close to supporting your charge of hypocrisy. The rest of your complaint is out of touch with the existing codes and working fabric of your community. Change them if you can. But until then recognize your's is the sanctimonious viewpoint.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

As I have before, I support the property owners right to preserve history as a matter of volunteering that effort, rather than requiring that effort. I disagree with Towny's petition. But he certainly has the right to make that petition and let our chosen system decide the outcome.

It should matter to the discourse that this issue affects our preservationists almost exclusively. Finding villains in such an affair is patently ridiculous.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

lewi:

If the analogy unclear to you, then replace the roles assigned to you & me, and replace them with the owner and Historic Routt County. It accurately reflects exactly what happened, despite your confusion.

My complaint is that Towny & Co. presume to know better than the property owner how the parcel should be dealt with, and had no business approaching anyone. If Historic Routt County wanted to exert some influence over the property's disposition, it enjoyed a unique and rare opportunity to take it off the owner's hands and assume absolute control over its future. It fled from that responsibility, and exposed its laughable "ethic" for the fraud that it is.

Presumptuous, meddling, sanctimonious hypocrites.

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

Brian, Let me get this straight, your complaint is that Historic Routt County hasn't bought a parcel, and moved the historic buildings it wants preserved to that parcel?

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Steve Lewis 3 years ago

If I have that right, I finally understand your analogy. If HRC isn't willing to take on the expense of saving a given property or the expense of moving the structure to a their own property, they are hypocrites. If they petition planning commission to have the property preserved, that is even worse.

On the former count, its fair to say HRC has brought both $$ and their own physical labor to the preservation effort in Routt County. Trying to preserve beyond what they can afford and beyond what comes voluntarily does not make them hypocrites.

As for their request to the museum board and to planning commission that the shed should be preserved, you must realize similar efforts are common place. While I was a planning commissioner I routinely heard and read public comment asking applications be denied or altered to suit a 3rd party. People frequently "presumed to know better than the property owner how the parcel should be dealt with." Much higher inconveniences and costs were sought. Presumptuous, meddling, sanctimonious... ?

Possibly. But less so than the fellow clamoring they had no business approaching anyone.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years ago

As a general principle, people who don't have an ownership stake in a given parcel should mind their own damned business. I understand the law allows supercilious busybodies to throw their wrenches into the works, and I'll call them on it whenever they do. This episode is unique, in that HRC wouldn't have had to purchase anything in order to validate their spurious “ethic.” The property was offered to anyone who wanted it, free of charge. No purchase required. HRC ran away whining, like the spoiled children they are.

Presumptuous, meddling, sanctimonious hypocrites. I get that you don't get it.

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