City approves preservation rules | AspenTimes.com

City approves preservation rules

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Despite general agreement that Aspen’s new historic preservation regulations are a vast improvement over what it had before, the Aspen City Council remained torn when it adopted the rules on a 3-2 vote Tuesday.

“I think we have made an ordinance that is better in many respects. In some ways, we’ve made it worse,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, who voted against the pair of ordinances, along with Councilman Terry Paulson.

Yesterday’s session, a continuation of a lengthy debate on Monday, again centered on whether a property should become eligible for historic designation at a certain age.

Experts advised the city to leave age out of the equation and judge each structure based on other criteria. But the council agreed no building should be given the designation before it’s 40 years old without the owner’s consent.

After age 40, a building may be added to the city’s historic inventory – subjecting it to a substantial layer of added regulation – with or without the owner’s blessing.

The council also agreed the city will attempt to notify the owner of any building that might be worthy of a historic designation two years in advance, when the building is 38 years old.

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Owners of properties that are 40 years old or older on March 31, 2002 that are under consideration for the designation will be notified at least six months in advance.

The 40-year threshold bothered Paulson, while the two-year advance warning alarmed Klanderud.

“I think there’s a possibility that sending out these notices two years in advance will have the unintended consequence of riling people up again,” she said.

Klanderud said she’d prefer property owners simply be contacted individually when the city feels a building might have historic merit.

“We call them up and say, `Look, can we work with you?'” she said.

Paulson argued a property of any age should be eligible for consideration whether the owner consents or not, and predicted the 40-year mark would produce a rash of demolitions just before buildings become eligible.

Without age as a trigger, properties will be judged fairly, he said. “It puts everybody on the same playing field.”

“Yeah, but it’s a lousy playing field. That’s the point,” countered Councilman Tim Semrau.

Aspen’s historic preservation program ground to a halt 18 months ago when the Historic Preservation Commission took up nominations to add some 50 homes and commercial buildings to the city’s historic inventory. Most of the structures were built after World War II, during Aspen’s rebirth as a ski resort.

Property owners were shocked to find their buildings could wind up on the inventory without their consent and that the city would consider designating buildings that were less than 50 years old.

Amid the uproar, the council halted the proceedings and agreed it needed clearer criteria with which to judge buildings, as well as a better review process for nominated properties. An expanded package of benefits for historic properties has also been developed.

Though the new criteria still needs some tweaking, council members and many property owners have praised the new set of regulations as an improvement.

But most owners of buildings that were built between 40 and 50 years ago still feel they should be exempt from consideration unless they want the historic designation for their property.

“I feel like we’re getting the shaft on this one. I really do,” said Yasmine de Pagter, co-owner of the Holland House Ski Lodge.