HPC listings draw anger from locals
Some members of Aspen’s volunteer Historical Preservation Commission have expressed differences with the city’s staff on the historic designation of numerous properties in the city.
Board members voiced their opinions in a Monday evening meeting after listening to the complaints of dozens of homeowners and lodge owners. Many of the property owners were angry about the inclusion of their properties on a new list of buildings and sites recommended for designation for historic preservation, and about the short notice they received on the listing.
The city wants to update its inventory of historic buildings and sites by including those built since World War II. A memo prepared by city staff members indicates that they consider Aspen’s ski history and its modernist architecture tradition to be important parts of the city’s past.
Aspen has had a list of 259 historic sites since the 1980s, and the HPC has, by all accounts, been responsible for slowing the rush to rip down Victorian-era miners cabins and replace them with giant second homes. The new effort by the city involves a list of 53 more buildings. To qualify, a building must either be 50 years old or be an “outstanding” example of architecture.
Many of the citizens attending the meeting complained that their buildings had no historical relevance, and some noted that city staff was mistaken on the details of their buildings’ past. Most were concerned the designation would interfere with future plans to remodel or replace their buildings and would reduce the value of their holdings.
Building owner Mary Barbee, a past president of the Aspen Historical Society, said the city had erroneous information on her building and told the commission the building didn’t have the architectural significance the staff claimed.
“I’m seriously misrepresented here,” Barbee said. “Integrity needs to be a part of the process.”
Jordan Gerberg’s house on Hyman Avenue is on the list as an example of a European chalet-style home. He argued that it’s a prefab ranch-style house instead and that someone put some trim on at some point in the past.
“The whole process is heavily flawed and should be re-evaluated before you continue,” Gerberg said.
Attorney Rick Kenezevich, representing homeowner Angeline Griffith, said, “It’s really sad that people have to have attorneys to come and protect them from the city.”
Michael Behrendt, owner of the St. Moritz Lodge, complained that he wasn’t offered the option of review by the City Council.
“This is a quasi-judicial process,” Behrendt said. “I am cut off from my elected representatives. Do you realize the power you have?”
Several HPC members raised the same beefs.
“The thing that bothers me about this is it seems so undemocratic,” said Christy Kienast.
“There are, at most, 10 properties on this list that I think we should go forward with,” said Heidi Friedland.
“We need to slow this down,” echoed Susan Dodington.
HPC member Gilbert Sanchez voiced concern that errors in documentation need to be straightened out, but disagreed with citizens who complained that historic designation is “punishment.”
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