Some Aspen homeowners still caught in Ordinance 48 limbo
ASPEN ” Nearly all of the Aspen property owners who have gone through government scrutiny over whether they can alter or demolish their historical properties have been able to negotiate with elected officials.
The outcomes have been mixed, with some people agreeing to historically designate their properties and others choosing to demolish or remodel their homes.
There have been 12 properties that have come through the government process since the controversial Ordinance 48 was first adopted in December 2007. That ordinance established a list of 53 properties that could be historically significant and therefore, development or demolition are limited on them.
“Twenty-five percent have attempted to move forward, and the others are waiting it out,” said Amy Guthrie, the city’s historic preservation officer.
Property owners on the list have been in limbo for nearly two years ” the council passed an emergency ordinance in July 2007 that placed restrictions on all buildings 30 years old or older. Ordinance 48 replaced that five months later, allowing some negotiating room for property owners and city officials.
In the meantime, a 22-member citizen task force has been working for a year on how to reshape the law and the city’s historic preservation program. The task force’s work was supposed to take between six months and a year, but now it appears it’ll be this summer before a recommendation will be made to the council.
Property owners who fall under the ordinance have a few options if they wish to proceed with their plans. They can ask for approval from city officials or the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), or volunteer for designation based on a package of financial and developmental incentives negotiated with the council.
They also could pass on designation and accept a 90-day delay to process a permit to alter or demolish a building. During that time, city officials hope to work with the property owner to save the structure, or decide whether the building is worth it.
“It gives us an opportunity to determine whether it’s worthy to be preserved,” Guthrie said, adding the city has no authority to deny property owners their right to redevelop or demolish. “We ask them to think about it for three months.”
The task force is currently weighing if the incentives ” established in the 1980s ” are enough for property owners who could potentially face economic losses as a result of the ordinance, and whether the city’s program is effective enough to preserve important historical buildings in town.
Two more homeowners are headed in front of the Aspen City Council on Monday looking to negotiate for landmark designation ” one wants to do a remodel, and the other has submitted a demolition permit.
The structure located at 211 W. Hopkins Ave. is a Pan-Abode residence listed as a potential historic resource; the owners have filed an application to demolish it. However, they are receptive to discussing potential landmark incentives.
The 90-day negotiation period expires on June 17, and the property owners want another 90 days to discuss options for the property.
The other case before the council is 219 S. Third St., a 1960s chalet-style home that is on the Ordinance 48 list. The owners are willing to negotiate for historic designation. Their plans are to preserve the existing 1,500-square-foot home and make an 1,100-square-foot addition at the rear corner. The western half of the lot is to be subdivided into a new lot that will contain a 2,400-square-foot home.
In the past year, the council has allowed several property owners to continue with their plans:
– The Aspen Institute was able to get approval to remodel the Paepcke Auditorium, and build a new tent called the Greenwald Pavilion. They are now in the building permit process.
– The owners of 1005 Waters Ave. submitted a building permit to remodel the house, including what historic preservation officials considered a detrimental addition of a second floor. The HPC voted that the building has architectural significance. The property owners, who met with council, had no interest in negotiating. Their building permit can be issued.
– The owner of 210 W. Francis St. initially applied for a demolition permit but has since decided to pursue a remodel instead. HPC voted that the property had historical value and that the council should negotiate. The owner asked for the negotiation period to be extended as she refines her plans.
– The owner of 411 Pearl Court applied for a remodel permit that officials believe will affect the building’s integrity. The HPC voted in favor of negotiation but the owner didn’t want to. The council agreed to let the owner move on with his plans.
– The owner of 621 W. Francis St. applied for a remodel permit that officials say will negatively affect the integrity of the building. HPC did not support negotiation, and the owner wasn’t interested anyway. The council agreed.
Two homes on Meadows Road owned by Pace Foods salsa billionaire Kit Goldsbury could be demolished if city officials aren’t successful in negotiating with him. They plan to pursue negotiations, but how willing he is to historically designate the structures remains to be seen. Goldsbury has land banked nine properties on Meadows Road.
Guthrie acknowledged that Ordinance 48 was designed to prevent situations like the one on Meadows Road.
Guthrie said she expected more property owners to apply for demolition permits but that overall, the success rate has been good. She also noted that none of the property owners haven’t actually proceeded with any of the approved work.
Critics of the law say the 12 property owners who have entered the process wouldn’t have done so if Ordinance 48 didn’t exist, but were motivated to move forward before a new, possibly more restrictive, law is adopted.
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