Historic preservation commission seeks middle ground with property owners
September 1, 2010
ASPEN – The Aspen Historic Preservation Commission, attempting to find the middle ground on a controversial initiative that in 2007 placed a number of properties on a list that prevents renovations or additions, could leave inclusion on the list up to the property owner.
The City Council on Tuesday night asked the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to create an amendment to Ordinance 48 that would make the status voluntary for all property owners.
Currently, the rule prevents people who own 52 of the 53 buildings that are on that list, including The Given Institute, from demolishing, renovating or adding on to them.
The list arose from an effort to establish a robust historic preservation program in 2007, when the City Council passed an emergency measure aimed at protecting the architecture of older buildings. Many of the buildings are more than 30 years old, but some are as recent as five years old.
Property owner Jack Wilke was visibly frustrated with the policy, saying he hasn’t been part of any of the discussions behind it.
“When I buy my own lot, I feel like I am the king, and I feel like I am being intruded upon,” Wilke said. “Not one member of HPC has talked to me for two seconds. Why shouldn’t I be furious?”
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The HPC application filed with the city would create a tiered system of lots based on their individual historical value. Staff would then decide which ones qualify for voluntary status.
Owners of properties that would be determined involuntary would be given incentives to comply with the rule.
HPC Director Amy Guthrie said that, for some of the owners, the incentives would have to be “pretty sweet.”
But the document calls for a lengthy process through which the system would be implemented, one that the City Council didn’t want to go through.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Mick Ireland said the involuntary status should be removed from the ordinance.
He noted that the debate has already been a long, heated one, with no good middle ground so far.
“I think the problem with our process is that it gets so attenuated that people don’t remember where we started,” he said.
Councilman Dwayne Romero agreed, saying the solution needs to be a simple, short one.
“If we go all the way to the end of 2011, we will not have done a good job,” Romero said.
No formal decision was made in Tuesday’s meeting.