Time to explain Waite fiasco | AspenTimes.com
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Time to explain Waite fiasco

Allyn Harvey

The owners of the historic Davis Waite House in Aspen’s West End face a revocation hearing tonight, which may result in the loss of their building permit.

Texas residents Dan and Gwen Mullins – or their representatives – will be asked by the city’s chief building official, Stephen Kanipe, to explain why nearly half of their century-old home’s siding and much of its original trim was sent to the dump in December and January.

If the answers fail to satisfy Kanipe, he may revoke the Mullins’ building permit and force them to reapply for permission to complete the renovation and addition to the home.

The Davis Waite House is located at 234 W. Francis Street. It was built sometime around 1888, according to city records, and was home to Waite, a Populist who was elected governor of Colorado in 1892. Waite was also a justice of the peace, a schools superintendent and an owner of The Aspen Times.

The home was thrust into the headlines late last month, when Aspen’s historic preservation director, Amy Guthrie, discovered during a spot inspection that much of the building’s original siding and trim was gone and several of the original posts destroyed.

City code allows renovations and additions to historic properties, but owners and contractors are required to do everything they can to preserve the building and its original materials. In addition to getting approval from the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission, projects that involve historic properties must also be OK’d by the Historic Preservation Commission.

After learning of the problems with the Mullins project, the HPC scheduled a site visit to catalog the damage. What they found were 24 separate instances of damage and missing materials.

On the west side of the home, according to the site survey list, “All historic window trim and sills have been replaced with new, new details added, no original materials exist.”

Other problems there include vent holes that were cut through the walls; original materials from the roof and floor on the porch have been discarded; and historic siding that was moved from its original location to the west side.

Similar problems were found on every other side of the building. In some cases, the original materials still exist; in others they don’t.

Assistant City Attorney Dave Hoefer said tonight’s hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., is a somewhat unusual occurrence. Kanipe, who is empowered by the uniform building code to pull building permits, is not required to conduct a hearing – he can simply pull the permit through administrative action.

“We wanted to give the Mullins family a chance to show their side of the case,” Hoefer said.

Hoefer said that tonight’s hearing will not affect contractor Gary Wheeler’s license. The contractor may, however, eventually lose his license through an administrative action, and be charged in municipal court with violating the historic preservation code.

“The city’s position is to determine how to proceed [with Wheeler] after tonight’s hearing,” Hoefer said.


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