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Basalt officials nervous about potential rush of demolitions

Basalt officials expressed fears Wednesday that their worst nightmare of triggering demolitions of historic structures was coming true.

It turns out it might have just been a case of paranoia surrounding the Town Council’s latest moratorium.

The council announced its intention Tuesday night to pass a six-month prohibition on demolition of structures 75 years of age and older. However, the moratorium cannot go into effect for about 30 days. The move was designed to buy time to work on permanent historic preservation guidelines.

Council members were worried that landowners who didn’t want to deal with the red tape might rush to secure demolition permits and raze old structures before they could be stopped.

It looked like they might have been right Wednesday morning. Less than 12 hours after the council announced its intentions, Basalt resident Mark Elise applied for a permit to remove a 12-by-20-foot structure from his property at 150 W. Homestead Drive.

Building inspector Mark Kittle said he knew the structure was more than 75

years old because it used to belong to his family. “It was my dad’s Aunt Mabel’s kitchen,” he said.

Elise bought the property about four years ago and intends to build an accessory dwelling unit on it for affordable housing.

Elise, who serves on the town’s planning commission, said he realized the timing of his demo permit application appears suspicious. However, it is purely coincidental, he said.

Elise said he had no idea when he came to Town Hall at 8 a.m. Wednesday that the council had approved a moratorium that would ensnare demolitions like his in another month.

Elise said he doesn’t relish removing the structure, but doesn’t see any options.

The structure might be historically significant because it shows how dwellings were built in such small scale in prior days. It also has some interesting architectural handiwork, said Elise, an architect.

But the building has also rotted by the ground and is structurally unsafe, he said. Fixing it up would be costly, and moving it would be nearly impossible.

Elise intended to save money by having the old structure torn down while he was building the accessory dwelling unit, he said.

He offered to give the structure to anyone who wants to save it. He also vowed to listen to any town officials with ideas about the building.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman, who led the historic preservation push, said she would prefer that no potentially historic structures be torn down until they can be assessed. However, she acknowledged that Elise’s structure might not be a good candidate for preservation. Building inspector Kittle agreed.

However, Freedman remains concerned about a potential rush for demolitions before the moratorium is in place.

“If it was certain other buildings in town, I’d be laying down in front of it,” Freedman said.


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