A history of lying being established before HPC? | AspenTimes.com

A history of lying being established before HPC?

John Colson

An Aspen man feels the city needs to get tougher with developerswho mislead the Historic Preservation Commission about what theyreally plan to do with historic properties.But city officials believe their hands are tied in terms of penaltiesfor people who lie about their plans for an historic house.Philip Hodgson, who lives in an historic house on Monarch Street,has written a letter to the HPC dated Feb. 23, 1999, arguing thatin at least three different recent cases, development applicantshave lied to the commission about their intentions.Hodgson wrote that he and his wife attended the HPC hearings regardingthree different historic properties in Aspen – the “Half House”at 218 N. Monarch St., a home at 101 W. Hallam St., and most recentlythe Davis Waite House.”In each of these hearings, we have found, disturbingly, thatthe applicants have misrepresented their intentions,” Hodgsonwrote.In the case of the Half House, he said, the owner stated he intendedto use the property as a vacation home for his family.”Since completion of the project in September 1998, the househas remained vacant of family and furnishings and is now on themarket,” Hodgson wrote. “An historic residence has been needlesslycompromised for a seemingly quick profit.”Regarding the West Hallam Street house, Hodgson recalled thatthe owners, “a young couple with their infant child in tow,” gavean emotional appeal to the HPC asking for permission to enlargethe house considerably. Permission was granted, despite objectionsby neighbors and others who doubted the couple’s sincerity.”Subsequently, the house was listed in the local papers with `HPCApprovals’ as a selling point to potential buyers/developers,”Hodgson continued.And regarding the highly controversial Waite House renovation,in which the developer threw away many of the materials used tobuild the original house, Hodgson cited statements by contractorGary Wheeler that “he understood the necessity for retaining andstoring the original materials.”Hodgson, who has lived in the historic home next to the Half Housesince 1972, said he is angered by the apparent deceptions involved,particularly since the statements made to the HPC were “underoath” at quasi-judicial hearings.”It seems to me that whatever they say on the record, they shouldbe held to that,” Hodgson said this week.HPC Chairwoman Suzannah Reid agreed on Tuesday that the statementsfrom the applicants appeared to be deceptions. She added, “I washappy to read his letter” addressing an issue that the HPC itselfhas been having trouble with.But, she continued, “There’s nothing really that we can do aboutit” except in cases such as the Waite House, where obvious violationsof the city’s codes were involved. In the Waite House case, theowner ended up losing about $75,000 due to construction delaysand paid $15,000 to the city to fund a special licensing programfor builders working on historic properties. And contractor GaryWheeler faces a hearing that could result in revocation of hislicense to do work in Aspen.In cases in which people claim they will live in the homes andthen put them on the market immediately, Reid said, the city haslittle leeway, regardless of what was said at the hearing.”We can’t discriminate against whether or not they’re going tolive in it or develop it as a spec house,” she said.As for the statements given under oath, she said the HPC has feltit possible only to control the physical aspects of construction.”Certainly, we feel a little bit like we’re being manipulated,”she said, referring to applicants’ claims that they’ll live inthe homes when they have no such intention. “In reality, we shouldn’tbe giving any weight to that type of argument.”City officials are now in the process of revising the historicpreservation codes, but the changes are not likely to containprovisions covering the issues Hodgson raised in his letter.

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