Fatally flawed | AspenTimes.com

Fatally flawed

I have been reading with great interest and equally grave concerns with reference to the historical preservation staff’s attempt to revamp their system.

Outstanding and significant

I find it completely amazing that in 18 months of work, at taxpayers’ expense, the HPC staff, with the help of experts, cannot even define the catch-all phrases in which they hide behind when defining inventory properties.

In the absence of any definition of their qualifiers of “outstanding” and “significant,” these values are merely OPINIONS. These opinions are arbitrary judgments as viewed in the eyes of overly zealous “activists,” and are of no greater value than the opinion of each individual property owner affected by the HPC confiscations.

In fact, with possession being 90 percent of the law, the property owner’s opinion of what is outstanding and significant will override any arbitrary judgments which are not defined and lack qualifying parameters.

The rights to freedom of ownership of private property precede any arbitrary, undefined and subjective opinions of a biased HPC staff. In a court of law where “outstanding” versus “not outstanding” is to be determined, the judge will demand specific clarifications.

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You cannot convict personal property to an inventory list in the absence of solid facts, and definitely not, on unsubstantiated opinions. Opinions are not historic qualifiers!

Catch-all phrases

Catch-all phrases such as “sufficient integrity,” “embodies a type” and the HPC’s new additions of broad-reaching phrases, such as “trends” and “philosophy,” are so vague as to become ludicrous.

I have a philosophy that I came to live in Aspen free of government interference – that is my philosophy and is the one my house is judged upon. My philosophy is to respect the rights of private property ownership, and yours is to abuse through regulatory takings.

Which philosophy brought us to Aspen in the first place? Philosophies are not historical qualifiers.

Trends

The police have been to my house on several occasions, which represents a trend. I once wore bell-bottom pants, which were a trend, and are still in my house somewhere.

Does that make my house historic? Get it? These vague catch-all terms are so broad and undefined they belittle any attempt to revamp the HPC valuation system. Trends are not historic qualifiers.

Consent and scoring

Without the consent of the owner to have their property listed voluntarily, your scoring system is ridiculous.

The HPC states only a 50 percent scoring grade is required for listing as “outstanding” inventory. In any grading system I have ever seen anywhere in the world, 50 percent equates to AVERAGE! A 90 percent scoring would indicate “outstanding” and “significant.”

How can an average point score grade of only 50 percent qualify anything in the terms the HPC themselves use, to represent “outstanding”? This process is an obvious manipulation of a qualifying scoring system in order to allow a mediocre, average score of 50 percent to represent what is supposed to judge an “outstanding” property.

Simply, AVERAGE is NOT outstanding. The baseline score must be 90 percent or better, to qualify as outstanding. The scoring process is blatantly weighed in the favor of the HPC and obviously created by the HPC to catch every possible house in Aspen.

A building with a roof, walls and front door that has not been moved (all of post-World War II homes and buildings) qualifies as historical inventory … in essence the ENTIRE TOWN OF ASPEN.

All property owners should beware … your home is in danger of confiscation against your will. Confiscation of personal property by the HPC staff in Aspen is no better than the actions of the Taliban against the people of Afghanistan.

Has the HPC learned nothing about history from the protests and public outcry of the past 18 months?

Benefits

Benefits given to owners whose properties are confiscated by the HPC system against their will MUST be of equal value or greater value and determined solely by each property owner.

Otherwise, they are NOT benefits at all. If taking of personal property without the consent of the owner will benefit the city of Aspen, the tourists that come here and the goals of the HPC staff, then it is imperative that the City Council assure each and every property owner the system will benefit the property owner in an equal and monetarily “significant” and an “outstanding” benefit package.

Without equal value benefits to both parties, i.e. the city and the property owner, the process is a complete failure.

If the HPC staff has the right to confiscate private property without an owner’s consent, then the owner has an equal right to determine the acceptable benefits received to compensate for the loss of personal freedom, the loss of the use of his property and the tremendous loss of financial values.

This process MUST benefit the property owner in direct proportion to the benefit the property has to the cost to Aspen’s taxpayers. The council must insure that all benefits are of equal “SIGNIFICANCE” and are, in fact, “OUTSTANDING” benefits, or history will repeat itself as was evident 18 months ago.

Why is it so blatantly obvious to everyone, except the HPC staff, that if the benefits are of significant value, then property owners will volunteer to be listed under a historical definition to graciously receive these “outstanding” benefits? And the HPC will have the consent of the property owner.

50-year-old rule

Both the Federal Historical Register and the Colorado Historical Register require that any property listed as historical MUST be a minimum 50 years old to receive both federal or state benefits.

Any post-World War II properties that are not at least 50 years old cannot receive any federal or state benefits. If the property cannot qualify for federal and state benefits in an equal and fair manner as all historical properties, then it cannot be listed without owner consent. End of story.

Taxpayer funding

Since Aspen taxpayers are paying for the “benefit” of having private homes listed without the consent of the owner, then it is IMPERATIVE that the taxpayers themselves judge on the merits and qualifications of each and every house to determine if their money should be spent on each specific property.

It is up to the taxpayers to vote, by ballot, as to whether to qualify a property for inclusion to the ambiguous inventory list and, in turn, fund the expenses paid as “significant” benefits by taxpayer money.

Any house considered for inventory must be put before the taxpayers, on a November ballot, before it can be listed against the will of the property owner and paid by taxpayer dollars necessary to fund a “significant” benefit package.

I, personally, will not pay to keep a rundown insignificant property or pan abode-style house trailer at my tax dollar expense just because an overly active HPC staff, operating without homeowners’ consent, has an opinion that my tax money should fund their unqualified definition of “outstanding.”

Judge

How can the HPC staff act as investigator, prosecutor, judge and sentencing board when condemning private property?

The prosecutor cannot also be the judge. Any property considered against the will of the owner must have completely unbiased defense, whereby the qualifying judging is not done by the prosecutor (HPC staff) in an attempt to “streamline” the process.

This is not streamlining, but simply an attempt to assure the hapless homeowner an unfair catch-all evaluation designed by the HPC staff to serve their own desires at the peril of the homeowner. This system is heavily flawed and cannot be allowed.

Summary

The process has not been revamped in any manner that protects or offers the property owners of Aspen any comfort. However, it has been revamped to broaden the powers of the HPC staff and fill some of the loopholes which previously protected the homeowners.

BOTTOM LINE. Owner consent MUST be required!

Owner consent for listing on an historical inventory with an “outstanding” benefit package as the incentive is the ONLY solution to prevent what will become another ugly battle between the homeowners of Aspen and the HPC, and history will repeat itself.

Jordie Gerberg

Aspen