What are we preserving?
October 30, 2007
Last Sunday, I went on a field trip to check out the dreaded LIST of the handful of properties which are under consideration for historic preservation, and all I can say is that the list is way too short.Originally, Ordinance 30 (now transmogrified to Ordinance 48) sought demolition review for all properties 30 years old or more. Fairly simple and fair all around, but then Marilyn Marks and Mike Maple (with Dwayne Romero in their corner) formed The Aspen Citizens Group, stirred up the old-timers and realtors and stormed city hall with a scroll of demands.The upshot of this was the watered down Ordinance 48 (second reading is Nov. 12) as well as the compilation of the LIST of properties to be reviewed before scraping. This list appears to have been hastily scrabbled together and the worst thing about it is that that’s IT: No more properties can be added for the next 10 years, never mind that many gems got overlooked in the shuffle.The papers say there are 89 properties on the list. I didn’t count them but it seems like even fewer, with most of them being businesses and lodges, everything in the malls (which are already subject to review) and only a smattering of private homes. My drive-by included about 25 residences and that was the majority of the ones listed.This is not to say those houses were not worth saving – they were – but there were dozens and dozens of others that also looked well worth saving.Nobody is going to go broke owning property in Aspen, especially those who got in on the ground floor, but to hear The Aspen Citizens Group’s take on it, half the town will end up in the poor house.I think the ordinance and the list are now so castrated as to be meaningless, yet the war rages on and apparently will continue to rage until there is no list at all.An amusing note is that North of Nell and Aspen Square are on the list – the two block-sized atrocities that Bugsy Barnard was ready to throw himself in front of the bulldozers to prevent, and which, to some of us, marked the end of Aspen. Progress marches on.In the end, the question is: Do we want a town full of huge faux-French stone-faced chateaux and trophy homes, or a cozy, eclectic mix of old and newer? Or do we just want to say the hell with it, bring on the diggers?Drive up Red Mountain and look at all the new desecration going on up there. Drive out to the music tent and see what, left to one’s own devices, can be done to turn a sweet Victorian into a monstrosity. Is this crap in Aspen’s best interest?I think City Council should scrap Ordinance 48 and revert back to demolition review for every property over 30 years old. Or even better, review everything before demolishing anything.Su Lum is a longtime local who wrote last week that early voting is being held at City Hall. Wrong! Early voting is in the building next to the courthouse, behind the county clerk and motor vehicle offices. SORRY! This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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