Homeowner facing heavy HPC penalty | AspenTimes.com

Homeowner facing heavy HPC penalty

Janet Urquhart

A West End homeowner may face the costly prospect of backtracking on the redevelopment of his miner’s cottage as punishment for destroying the historic integrity of the home.

Aspen’s Historic Preservation Commission, which has been wrestling with penalties to impose in the case, will review its latest draft of recommended sanctions on Wednesday.

They include revoking the home’s landmark status and the construction variances that came with it, and imposing a one-year moratorium on work at the homesite, located at 213 W. Bleeker St.

The sanctions, if approved by the HPC, would then go to the City Council for final approval.

Currently, the 19th-century home owned by Ron and Lori Schelling is nothing but a frame structure sitting atop a newly installed foundation that extends beyond the cottage toward the rear lot line. A new addition was to be constructed to the rear of the original home.

Work on the project was halted last fall when the city discovered Ron Schelling, who is also the contractor for the project, went beyond the approved plans for the home.

According to the HPC’s findings, the entire home was deconstructed without HPC approval. Some elements of the home were destroyed, as was the integrity of the home’s interior framing. Pieces of the original wall and roof framing have been tacked onto what is essentially a new frame, according to the HPC.

“The Historic Preservation Commission has determined that a substantial penalty is merited in this case, based upon the virtually total loss of an irreplaceable community historic resource,” the commission’s recommended order states.

If the home’s landmark status is revoked, it is no longer eligible for the variances originally granted the project, including construction within required setbacks from the lot lines and the waiver of one parking space that would otherwise be required.

If the proposed sanctions are approved by the City Council, Schelling would presumably have to redesign the home so that it does not encroach into the setbacks.

“The owner shall be required to submit a complete new building permit application for his proposed reconstruction prior to any further activity on the property,” according to the recommended order.

The property would remain on the city’s historic inventory, due to an historic shed on the lot, giving the HPC review of the home for architectural compatibility with the shed.

The order also requires the owners to write a letter of apology to the community, to be submitted to local newspapers for publication. In addition, it recommends Schelling be required to reimburse the city for its costs in the case, including staff and attorney time. The HPC has been advised by an outside counsel during the proceedings.

The unauthorized modifications Schelling made to the home were reviewed in advance with Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer, but they were not approved by the HPC or city staff. Schelling testified at a December hearing that, as a result of a miscommunication with his architect, he thought the changes had been OK’d.

His attorney, Doug Allen, has argued that Schelling did not intentionally violate the rules. And Schelling testified that most of the exterior elements the HPC wanted preserved have been saved and will be returned to the rebuilt home.

The Schellings currently reside in Chicago but plan to live in the West End home once it’s finished, Allen told the HPC last month.

If the proposed sanctions are approved by the City Council, Schelling would presumably have to redesign the home so that it does not encroach into the setbacks.

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Posted: Monday, February 26, 2001

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