Preserving history in Carbondale | AspenTimes.com

Preserving history in Carbondale

Jeremy Heiman
Carbondale correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

John Stroud/Carbondale Valley JournalA group of youngsters passes in front of the Rebekah Lodge/Odd Fellows building at Third and Main, one of Carbondale's most distinctive and historic downtown buildings. It has, for many years, has housed the Rebekahs' Near New Store.

CARBONDALE ” The town of Carbondale’s Historic Preservation Commission, a volunteer board, is in the process of drafting a set of guidelines for owners of historic buildings.

The group presented a preliminary draft to the town council in mid-July, but the document is still a work in progress, said commission Chairman Steve Inverso. The commissioners have been working on the guidelines for about a year, and their meeting with the trustees was intended to provide an update on their work.

“We’re just in the middle of this process,” Inverso said. “There’s nothing concrete.”

Once the commission finishes its work on the guidelines, the document will be the subject of a series of public hearings, and may undergo some changes before it is adopted by the Board of Trustees.

The guidelines will only apply to Carbondale’s historic downtown area, at least

in the beginning. That area, said Ron Robertson, vice chair of the commission, is just along Main Street, roughly from the Rio Grande Trail crossing to White House Pizza.

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“If somebody wants to do an alteration, rehabilitation, restoration or demolition, those design guidelines would apply to that application,” Inverso said.

But another goal of the commission is to make the Carbondale guidelines a “friendly” document, Robertson said. The guidelines will help owners and designers to determine what changes would be harmonious with the historic nature of their neighborhood without placing onerous restrictions on them.

“We’re just here to help. We’re not here to hinder people from doing what they want to do,” Robertson said.

Moreover, the town will not have legal leverage to prevent changes not in keeping with historic preservation to a privately owned building.

But the town may be able to provide some incentives, such as zoning variances, fee waivers, tax relief or loan assistance, to a property owner if the owner agrees to comply with the guidelines, according to material presented to the town trustees in July.

“We’re working on economic benefits to owners of properties,” Inverso said. “But those are all pieces of a large puzzle. It’s going to take years.”

The commission has divided itself into three committees to work on drafting the

guidelines ” one is working on the architectural design aspects, another on economic incentives, and a third on community outreach, said Janet Buck, senior planner for the town of Carbondale.

Carbondale’s existing historic preservation ordinance, Title 19 of the town’s code, was adopted by the Board of Trustees in January 2007.

Along with other provisions, it called for the creation of a historic preservation commission and laid out a number of duties for that commission. Among those was: “Adopt criteria for review of historic resources and for review of proposals to alter, demolish or move designated resources.”

The ongoing work is being done to fulfill that directive, Inverso said. The new document will take the form of an amendment to the 2007 ordinance.

Things change slowly in downtown Carbondale, and it’s probably fortunate, Robertson said.

“Since we started working on this, nothing’s happened,” he said. “And we’re kind of glad, because we need some time to get our documents together.”

Inverso also acknowledged the work is proceeding slowly, but he said his commissioners are the right people for the job, educated and dedicated.

“I’m very excited about this commission,” Inverso said.

The Carbondale Historic Preservation Commission meets on the first Tuesday of every month, at 6:30 p.m. in Room 2 at Carbondale Town Hall. The public is invited to attend.

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