What’s historic " you or your house? | AspenTimes.com

What’s historic " you or your house?

Andy Stone
Aspen, CO Colorado

And so the city will continue to wrestle with the issue of the historic nature and historic value (if any) of Aspen buildings that were slapped up in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Property owners line up to argue their case against historic designation, which is sad to see. It is sad because, to make their point, they have to insult their own homes.

“You call this piece of crap historic?” they ask, in desperate hopes of escaping the grinding gears of government bureaucracy.

We should be proud of our homes; we should cherish them. Instead, people are lining up to publicly label their Home Sweet Home as an unmitigated architectural disaster, an eyesore, a blight upon the neighborhood.

It’s sad. But who can blame a homeowner for doing whatever it takes to save a few bucks? Or a whole lot of bucks, for that matter.

It’s a drama, by the way, that we see on a regular basis when the county assessor issues the new property valuations. House-proud homeowners suddenly race to explain why their little shack isn’t nearly as nice as their neighbor’s (which is why their property value ” and thus their property taxes ” should be lowered). “Keeping up with the Joneses” suddenly turns into a race for the bottom.

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Anyway, back on the historic front, the heart of this debate is that the city has decided to expand the definition of “historic” to include buildings that are more than 30 years old.

And it occurs to me that one solution might be to expand “historic” designation to include the ownership, as well as the property owned.

What I’m suggesting is that Aspen could create “historic owners,” as well as “historic” structures.

I’m thinking, for example, that if a person or a family has lived in (repeat: actually lived in) a building for at least half its life span, then they would be exempt from historic preservation rules.

So if a building is 50 years old and you (or your family) have owned it for at least 25 years, all bets are off. You can do whatever the hell you want with it. Including raffling off the rights to knock it down with a bulldozer. (Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?)

After all, to stick with our example, if you’ve lived in Aspen in a 1950s-vintage home for 25 years, brother, you’ve paid your dues. You’ve put up with cheap construction, nonexistent insulation, doors that won’t close (or won’t open) and walls that crack as the foundation settles.

And since you bought that relatively cheap house to begin with, I’m guessing you’ve probably also been struggling just to get by here in Silver City.

Your residency is at least as historic as your residence. No one can accuse you of trying to turn a quick buck. Grab that sledgehammer and have at it.

On the other hand, if your home was built in 1977 and you bought it in 1997 ” well, first of all, you probably paid way too much for it. Back in 1997, the average price of an Aspen home already was into the multiple millions, so financial hardship shouldn’t enter into the equation.

Besides, that cheesy 1970s house of yours has probably doubled (if not tripled) in value. So those multiple millions are now multiples of multiple millions ” and you deserve congratulations for your crafty investments, not sympathy for that pile of junk you’re living in.

And if historic designation means you only triple your money, instead of quadrupling it … well, really, don’t be greedy. No one has the right to demand 400 percent increases.

And, of course, all of this pretty much leaves Aspen’s real historic homes ” those Victorians ” untouched. A house built in the 1880s is closing in on 130 years old. Do the math.

The bottom line is simple enough.

People who came here without a whole lot of money and have been struggling ever since deserve a break.

The rest of you should enjoy your profits and shut the heck up.

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