City’s historic preservation rules will be debated again |

City’s historic preservation rules will be debated again

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

After 18 months of work overhauling Aspen’s preservation regulations, the Aspen City Council decided Monday it could wait another 24 hours before adopting the new rules.

The council will continue its meeting today at 4 p.m., when the much-debated rewrite of the preservation code may finally win approval.

A slim majority on the council appeared ready last night to back a proposal from Councilman Tim Semrau that would make any building less than 40 years old ineligible for historic designation without the owner’s consent.

Semrau also suggested the owner of any building being considered for historic designation receive notification two years before the structure comes before the Historic Preservation Commission for a hearing.

The council is considering two ordinances – one establishing new preservation regulations and criteria and one outlining the benefits to be accorded to historic properties. While some tweaking remains to be done on the legislation, city staffers urged the council to adopt both measures.

The council can take a look at how the new rules have worked after giving them a try for a year, suggested Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.

But the council has repeatedly received an earful from the owners of post-World War II properties who don’t want their homes and businesses considered for the designation without their consent.

As proposed, the new regulations allow the consideration of any property, regardless of its age, for the designation, though newer buildings can be held to stricter review standards than Aspen’s century-old structures.

Property owners, however, want some assurance that their buildings won’t be slapped with the designation – and the added layer of regulation that comes with it – before the structures are old enough. Fifty years is the threshold most often bandied about.

But some of Aspen’s notable post-war buildings include the chalet-style structures that marked the beginning of the ski era and modern buildings designed by renowned architects, according to Guthrie.

“We have some amazing things in this community,” she said.

Establishing the 40-year mark allows the city to preserve some of its key post-war buildings and gives property owners some breathing room – they will know they’re not in contention before then, Semrau argued.

“Forty years would ensure the possibility of preserving significant post-war construction,” he said.

Or it would signal when some of it will disappear, predicted Councilman Terry Paulson.

“If you say 40 years, or 35 . people are going to use that as a guideline for when they’re going to demolish their home,” he said.

“Some people don’t tear their houses down because they need to live in them,” Mayor Helen Klanderud countered.

Reaching the 40-year mark wouldn’t automatically mean a property would be considered worthy of an historic designation, council members noted.

And a property owner who wants a building designated before it reaches the threshold age could petition the HPC to consider its worthiness. Younger buildings wouldn’t be precluded from consideration if the owner wishes it, Councilman Tom McCabe pointed out.

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