Voluntary preservation | AspenTimes.com

Voluntary preservation

Dear Editor:

I just don’t understand … why we don’t create a Historic Preservation Policy that encourages voluntary designation?

If having property designated historic is such a wonderful thing, why are people not lined up to have their property considered?

I have heard that involuntary designation of buildings is necessary to preserve the soul of the town ” only for citizens to respond that the soul of the town is in the people, not the buildings. We have all visited places that the physical elements, including the architecture, were the initial attraction, but the people we encounter create the experience, which draws us back.

To say “Our past success is based on forced designation” is not acceptable. Our country has done many things in the past that have proven not to be the intelligent, fair or moral way (denying civil rights, women’s rights, individual rights), and, thankfully, we have changed them. For years, our military was based on a forced draft system. Today, it is voluntary with incentives to encourage participation. Think about the uproar at the mere suggestion that we return to involuntary service.

If historic preservation is important, everyone should participate in the funding ” not just an unfortunate group of owners who have been targeted against their will. Their properties were selected without objective, approved criteria to be the ones whose owners “should give back to the community.” Our energy should be spent developing a program with incentives to preserve important structures that the community believes to be worthy of preserving rather than putting Band-Aids on ill-conceived ordinances based on misrepresented facts about lost properties.

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In a recent meeting, Mayor Ireland suggested if citizens believe that historic preservation is important, they should be willing to contribute to that goal just as we do for open space, bike paths, etc. If we use this concept and include in the budget allocations for historical preservation, we can create incentives for the owners of properties that meet a high, respected standard, encouraging them to seek designation. A grant-type program, providing money to rehabilitate and maintain the property, could be a win-win opportunity for everyone.

If Aspen is to be a leader in historic preservation, we need a progressive policy using incentives and pride ” not fear, force and the taking of individual rights. Each of us has the right to make choices and establish priorities. Forcing someone to retain their property against their will in a manner that creates no risk to others is not appropriate ” no more than we should have the right to demand that someone continue using a car, bike or pair of skies that are 30 years old and no longer meet their needs.

There is a better way to preserve history. The first step is to engage the support of our citizens, not alienate them. We need a voluntary historic designation policy that has people lined up to be a part of it ” because of the desirable incentives, and the honor such designation represents.

Marsha Cook

Aspen