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Delisting equals demolition

Dear Editor:

In the wake of a third marathon hearing of the Blue Vic, which spent literally hours debating the impact of an alley, which up until recently, no adjacent owner has asked to use for its platted purpose, the City Council removed a different historic property from the Aspen Inventory of Historic Landmark Sites and Structures. They might as well have included a demolition permit. Its replacement, restricted only by the Residential Design Standards which do not prescribe architectural style, will undoubtedly be a built to the maximum FAR allowed by the now active underlying zoning.

522 W. Francis St. failed to make the grade by 30 points in a quantitative scoring system created by the city’s Community Development Department, Historic Preservation Commission, and agreed upon by City Council. [The neighborhood] “setting” accounts for one fifth of the total score. Right now there is nothing to prevent the redevelopment of the site from negatively impacting the setting component of other inventoried houses, making them a little closer to being delisted.

Defending a high standard for inventoried and landmark properties protects the integrity of the designation and the high quality historic resources that have endured in Aspen. But to allow the compromised houses to be redeveloped as a detriment to the historic context of the remaining homes runs contrary to the larger goals of historic preservation. Delisted status could be a new opportunity in the land use code to go beyond the guidelines of the Residential Design Standards, or it could just become a small hole in the historic fabric of our town.

Albeit, the abused building still has some historic value, is arguably charming, with the form of the original miner’s cabin worked into the overall composition (see the picture on page A5 in the Tuesday, March 14 edition of The Aspen Times, or go there to decide for yourself). Councilman Jack Johnson thought it worthy to keep the current structure as a “perverse” reminder of early historic preservation failures.

In order to prevent another, I suggest that an ordinance be added requiring redevelopment applications for delisted properties be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission in order to responsibly protect the historic setting, which is so important to the West End experience and the remaining historic inventory and landmark properties.

John Rushenberg

Aspen


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