Input on historic designation to cost $200K |

Input on historic designation to cost $200K

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The Aspen City Council on Monday approved spending $206,000, which allows, in part, the public to be included in designating buildings that are more than 30 years old as historic ” a process that initially left citizens out.

The City Council for nearly two months has heard a loud public outcry from property owners after it approved an emergency ordinance that was aimed at protecting historically significant buildings.

Property owners had no notice of the new law, which generated fear, anger and anxiety amongst the Aspen citizenry.

Property owners came out in full force Aug. 14, asking for a repeal of Ordinance 30, which makes it possible to declare 30-year-old homes historic.

The ordinance was passed as an emergency measure on July 10, and delays any exterior alterations, land-use applications, or demolition and building permits for structures at least 30 years old. The delay gives city officials time to evaluate the property for historical significance, and if no significance is found, the property owner can proceed with the original plans.

City planners said that an alarming number of homes from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s were being bulldozed during the city’s ongoing development boom, and the City Council decided to act to save those that are worth saving.

But some homeowners ” 85 or so of whom have been meeting to formulate a response to the new ordinance ” have argued that the council acted without sufficient notice to affected property owners and that the new law is a direct hit on their property values.

As a result, the City Council has agreed to establish a “blue ribbon committee” comprising a specialized historic preservation consultant, local property owners, real estate professionals, elected officials and city staff to study the economic impacts of historic preservation. Staff estimates that study to cost $25,000.

A second committee will review the current historic preservation ordinance and specifically review the criteria and evaluation tools used for landmark designation. That includes creating what officials call a “context paper” that describes the types of architecture from various time periods and their local importance. It’s expected that the city’s scoring system, landmark criteria and design guidelines will need to be revised ” at an estimated cost of $55,000.

Compiling a list of eligible properties for historic designation is estimated to cost $20,000. The first phase of creating that list is analyzing the “easy” properties first, meaning that many properties will likely be rejected at the outset. The second phase is more labor intensive and would require a consultant, which would cost $96,000 for research and further investigation of particular properties.

The final cost is $10,000 for a “public defender” that City Hall would retain to assist and advise property owners. However, city staff thinks that the majority of property owners will postpone going through the designation process until changes are made to the ordinance so that expenditure won’t be needed until next year.