Residents to get say on Ordinance 30
ASPEN It was clear from the start that Monday’s Aspen City Council work session would not produce what some angry homeowners wanted most – a repeal of Ordinance 30, which makes it possible to declare 30-year-old homes historic.But some of the homeowners at the meeting, which lasted more than three and a half hours, said they felt more optimistic about their prospects than before.”I think we’re making progress,” said one of the leading critics of the new ordinance, homeowner Marilyn Marks. “At least we’re having extended dialogue.”The council decided to create a blue-ribbon committee made up of homeowners, with some undefined expert assistance, to figure out how best to implement Ordinance 30.”This meeting is about how we can make the ordinance we already have adopted … a better ordinance,” Mayor Mick Ireland declared as the meeting began at 5 p.m. “It’s not your traditional Aspen start-over.”He pointed out that there had already been a motion to reconsider the ordinance, which had failed. He said there will be future opportunities for public comment as the ordinance is refined and clarified in the coming weeks.
Ordinance 30, passed as an emergency measure on July 10, delays any exterior alterations, land use applications or demolition and building permits for buildings at least 30 years old. The delay gives the city time to evaluate the property for historical significance; if no significance is found, the property owner can proceed with the original plans.City planners had indicated 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 preserve 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.Despite Ireland’s opening statement, a number of the homeowners present argued for repeal of Ordinance 30, while others criticized the council for caring more about buildings than people.”They care more about a few marginally tasteful buildings than they do the people that live in those buildings,” Bob Cook told the audience, turning to the council to add, “and we put you in office.”Ireland testily warned the audience not to burst into applause again or risk alienating the council and making matters worse than they already were.
“If I have to clear the room, then I’ll clear the room,” he said, maintaining that such outbursts are attempts at intimidation and a waste of valuable hearing time. He also declared that if those applauding thought they were intimidating him, “then you picked the wrong guy to try to impress.”Another local homeowner, Allison Daily, said a short time later that the applause was a sign of nervousness, anger and anxiety.”Where everybody’s coming from is a place of fear,” she said, a result of the uncertainty over property values and the lives of longtime residents who were counting on their homes as an investment in their future. “I’m a hardworking mom, and I just want to feel that I have something to pass on to my kids.”At the end of the meeting, Ireland agreed with the basic point Cook, and later former Councilman Tim Semrau, made.”We don’t want to lose the characters to preserve the character,” he quipped. He also agreed with many in the room that the city needs to come up with a list of properties that might have historic value, and another list of those that definitely are not historic at this point. It came up more than once that 97 percent of the homes in question would not qualify as historic.Councilman Dwayne Romero agreed with the homeowners’ argument that the ordinance is hurting their property values, and called for an immediate suspension of the law pending further review and clarification. But he also called for a halt to all demolition except for those properties that clearly are not historic, until that review is complete.
“Isn’t that what Ordinance 30 does?” asked Councilman Jack Johnson.”No,” Romero shot back, although he was unable to come up with a clear explanation of the difference.The council finally decided to direct staff to begin setting up the committee, and to define certain aspects of the ordinance and its effects, including a way to determine whether historic designation truly does hurt property values, and an inventory of properties that indicates which require further investigation and which are obviously not of historic value.”It’s productive to a point,” said Jerry Blumberg, “but it’s very frustrating for some of us who are hanging in midair.” The Blumberg home on McSkimming Road is one of two properties out of 38 that have been reviewed under Ordinance 30, that have been designated as having potential historic value.John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org