Ordinance 30: big surprises
On GrassRoots TV, I’ve been watching the endless city council meetings and work sessions concerning Ordinance 30, which stipulates that structures in the city 30-years-old or older be reviewed for historic potential prior to demolition or remodeling.Historic preservation is already in place for buildings 40-years-old or older, hence it was not much of a leap, and it was enacted as an emergency ordinance so that a panicked public wouldn’t flood city hall asking for demo permits.Predictably, there was significant outrage from house-flippers, longtime residents, Realtors and others with financial interests, who cried foul at the “emergency” aspect and compiled a list of demands including that historic designation should be voluntary, that owners of such properties should be compensated for their losses, that blue ribbon committees should be chosen to assess the situation, that a full inventory of possibly affected properties be drawn up and that a “super majority” of both city council and the Historic Preservation Commission be required for any nonvoluntary designation in the interim.The idea of compensation was of special interest to me because my miner’s shack has involuntarily been on the historic list since the ’70s, and would be worth a lot more if it were an empty lot.Does this give me a case against the city? I think not. I don’t have enough land for a lot split or enough money to turn my house into a mud room and build a faux-French behemoth behind it, but does this mean the city owes me? Even on the list, the shack is worth 30 times what I paid for it.Mick Ireland said he thought voters would approve increased property taxes to reimburse newer historic home owners for their losses, and all I can say is good luck! It won’t get my vote.Nor do I think that home owners are going to flock to be voluntarily designated.Before the council on Monday, Sept. 10, was the choice to leave the ordinance as written, to considerably emasculate the ordinance by incorporating the above suggestions (Option 3), or to repeal it. After discussion and public comments, J.E. DeVilbiss made a surprise motion to repeal it.Since Steve Skadron had already voiced second thoughts about the emergency process and Dwayne Romero was against the process from the git-go, Ordinance 30 seemed so doomed that I came within a gnat’s ass of turning off the TV to write this column (“Dead in the Water”).Clearly the vote was going to be 3-2 in favor of repeal (not, I noted, a super-majority when we really needed it), but a funny thing happened on the way to the roll call. Jack Johnson and Mick Ireland spoke in favor of Option 3 as preferable to throwing the baby out with the bath water.Dwayne Romero then surprisingly changed course and said he would vote for Option 3 and the surprising upshot was a 4-1 vote for Option 3 with Steve Skadron surprisingly the only negative.Whoa! So at least we have something, until the blue ribbon committees and super-majorities actually deem a building historic rather than a potential second home, and then the fur will fly again.Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks it ain’t over even when it’s over. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.