Deal struck on Waite House
Work on the historic Waite House could resume as early as todayunder an agreement reached between the city and the century-oldhome’s owner.Aspen’s top building official, Stephen Kanipe, approved the agreementyesterday, just two weeks after he put off his decision on whetherDon Mullins should lose his building permit. The deal allows Mullinsto continue the remodeling work at the West End property thathas been under way for most of the last year, as long as severalconditions are met and he pays $15,000 to the the city.The agreement received a lukewarm reception from the HistoricPreservation Commission Wednesday, however, as several membersworried that Mullins was getting off too easily. “I’m concernedthat a precedent is being set where people ask for forgivenessinstead of asking for permission,” said HPC member Maureen McDonald.McDonald and her fellow HPC members have been struggling withthe condition of the Waite House ever since Historic PreservationOfficer Amy Guthrie slapped a stop-work order, or “red tag,” onthe project last month. Guthrie found that more than a third ofthe home’s original siding and much of its trim had been thrownaway in violation of city code and the conditions of the buildingpermit. The HPC subsequently compiled a list of 24 violations of the historicpreservation code at the building site. Kanipe then convened ahearing, requiring Mullins to either explain the situation toKanipe’s satisfaction or lose his building permit. Kanipe delayedhis decision while the city and Mullins’ attorney attempted toreach a settlement.The agreement calls for Mullins to repair as much of the damageas possible and submit to more rigorous oversight. “From this point forward,” reads the agreement, “all exteriorwork on the historic house shall be performed in consultationwith the architect of record, Scott Lindenau, and a weekly planof action and report of progress shall be submitted to the HistoricPreservation Officer, Amy Guthrie.” Lindenau will assume oversight of the project from contractorGary Wheeler, who will be allowed to continue work as long ashe retains his license. Wheeler, who has been in the constructionbusiness here for more than three decades, was targeted for mostof the blame for the situation.In response to concerns about the precedent that was being setby not penalizing Mullins more harshly, City Attorney David Hoeferpointed out that Mullins had already lost $75,000 because of thedelay. “In this case,” Hoefer said,” I’m not sure the owner isthe primary party to blame.”Kanipe said Wheeler’s license would be the subject of a show-causehearing sometime in the next few weeks. If he cannot satisfactorilyexplain his decision to discard original materials and his failureto follow the conditions in the building permit, he will losehis license.In the meantime, Kanipe said, Wheeler can continue work on boththe interior and exterior of the Waite House. Mullins said Wheelerwould remain on the job as long as he was licensed.Kanipe also challenged the notion that the agreement set a badprecedent. One outcome of the Waite House fiasco, he said, isa new policy that requires the owner, the architect, the contractor,the HPC and the historic preservation officer to all sign a statementindicating a mutual understanding of the conditions of a buildingpermit.During the Feb. 10 hearing, Mullins said he had not read the resolutionsand permits that came with the project’s approval, relying insteadon his architect, contractor and lawyer to make sure things wentthe way they were supposed to.The $15,000 Mullins will pay will fund a special licensing programfor contractors working on historic projects.”Red tags come and go,” Kanipe said, “but this one changed theway things will be done in the future.”
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