HPC mulls punishing homeowner | AspenTimes.com
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HPC mulls punishing homeowner

Janet Urquhart

A West End homeowner who made unauthorized changes to his historic miner’s cottage is now facing possible sanctions from the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission.

The HPC heard more than two hours of testimony from sworn witnesses, including homeowner Ron Schelling, during a quasi-judicial hearing Wednesday.

The commission met briefly behind closed doors at the close of last night’s hearing and agreed to meet again in private on Dec. 20 before making any findings regarding Schelling’s apparent violations.

The City Council has the final say on any penalties that are imposed, according to David Hoefer, assistant city attorney.

The HPC approved a renovation of Schelling’s home at 213 W. Bleeker St. The project was to include temporarily moving the home to install a new foundation, the demolition of a recent addition to the house, restoration of the home to its historic appearance and the construction of a new addition between the house and a historic shed on the property.

The 19th-century cottage is designated as a historic landmark.

According to testimony presented Wednesday, wood-shake roofing and existing siding on the home was removed and destroyed, and new interior framing replaced the original structure of the house.

Pieces of the original framing have been “tacked onto a new building,” said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.

“It’s an entirely new building with pieces of the original framing tacked on, not in any historic placement,” she said. “If the original framing is lost, there is not a 19th-century building there anymore.”

Many of the alterations were discussed in a meeting between Guthrie, Schelling and Schelling’s architect, Jack Palomino, in August, according to testimony. Schelling is also the contractor handling renovation of the home.

According to Guthrie, Palomino agreed to submit the proposed changes in writing for HPC review. By the time the city received a letter from Palomino in mid-October, removal of the existing siding and roofing, along with other unauthorized work, had already apparently been done. Most of the siding was not the original siding on the home, according to Palomino’s letter.

Schelling said he spoke with Palomino as work proceeded and was under the impression that the HPC had approved the deviations from the original renovation plan.

Palomino was not called as a witness.

Attorney Doug Allen, representing Schelling, said his client’s actions were the result of “horrible miscommunications.”

While the interior framing has lost its historical integrity, most of the exterior elements the HPC wanted preserved have been saved and will be returned to the rebuilt home, Schelling said under questioning by Allen.

“When historical elements are restored to the outside of this house . we will have the historic elements where they matter the most,” Allen told the HPC in closing. “I think that’s the most important thing.”

“What matters is, we had a historic landmark building that today is basically a replication,” said Hoefer. “There has been a loss of a historic resource, and the owner is responsible for that loss.

“In no way are we saying Ron [Schelling] intentionally did anything wrong here,” Hoefer continued. “Nonetheless, there is damage to a historic resource, and I think there has to be some penalty.”

Hoefer recommended the HPC consider the sanctions imposed against West End homeowner Don Mullins last year after a third of the original siding and trim was thrown away during a remodeling of his home, the historic Waite House.

Remedial work was ordered on the home, and Mullins was fined $15,000 and required to write a letter of apology to the community, published in local newspapers.

To help avoid such future fiascos, part of Mullins’ fine money was used to fund a special licensing program for contractors working on historic projects.

Schelling obtained that licensing before he began work on his house.


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