Basalt plans `emergency’ law to preserve historic buildings |

Basalt plans `emergency’ law to preserve historic buildings

Basalt celebrated the 100-year anniversary of one of its historic structures yesterday. And the Town Council wants to make sure there are other such parties in the future.

The council members agreed Tuesday night that emergency legislation is needed to prevent demolition of structures more than 75 years old.

Councilwoman Anne Freedman proposed the special review for older buildings as a “stopgap measure” to buy time for more comprehensive policies.

“We do need to think it through and come up with a more thorough ordinance on historic preservation,” said Freedman.

She proposed that the board first pass legislation limiting the ability to demolish historic commercial and residential buildings. Next, a citizens committee will work on an inventory of all the affected structures – those at least 75 years old. Then the Town Council will work on guidelines regulating redevelopment of historic buildings.

Freedman and Basalt Town Manager Tom Baker said they could find nothing in the current code that prevents a property owner from easily acquiring a demolition permit when an historic structure is involved.

Freedman said her primary concern was the Primavera building on Midland Avenue, next to Alpine Bank. She didn’t know much about its history or even its age, but Freedman said she knew the building was an inn while the bank building served as a railroad depot close to the turn of the century.

The Primavera building is listed for sale at $2.85 million.

Although nothing in real estate advertising even hints at demolition of the grand old structure, Freedman said she is concerned a prospective buyer could tear it down to make way for a new, more lucrative development.

She wants to guard against that possible threat – not only with the Primavera building, but with several other historic structures in town.

Basalt’s got a great collection of structures that date back to around the turn of the century. The Kelly building, known as “the old post office” and now the new home of Mason and Morse Real Estate, was built 100 years ago. It’s across Midland Avenue, the town’s main street, from the Primavera building and old depot.

The former Rebakkah Lodge building and Sloss’s, a former mercantile, both on Homestead Drive, also stand out among Basalt’s greatest old buildings.

Freedman said some Victorian homes are also “gems” she would want to see included in the historic inventory.

None are threatened by the wrecking ball, but their long-term future is uncertain under current regulations, Freedman noted.

“I think we have to be aware of our past,” she said. “It’s important to maintain continuity to the past.”

Other board members agreed. The staff was directed to prepare an emergency ordinance for the board’s review as soon as possible. Board members also encouraged Freedman to get in contact with the newly formed Basalt Historical Society for help on the inventory and planning for preservation guidelines.

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