1970s already ‘historic’ in Aspen | VailDaily.com

1970s already ‘historic’ in Aspen

John Colson
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” In the face of considerable public opposition, the City Council has approved, by a 4-1 vote, an emergency ordinance to prevent demolition or major alteration of any building 30 years old or more.

The sole dissenting vote came from Councilman Dwayne Romero, who said he supported the concept behind the regulation but objected to certain provisions. The rest of the council overruled changes he’d suggested.

Under the ordinance, any property owner who applies for a demolition permit or a building permit for exterior alterations must first submit to a review by Community Development Director Chris Bendon to determine if the building has “historic merit.”

If Bendon rules that it does have historic merit, beginning with determining whether it is 30 years or older, the property will then go through a historic designation review and could then be subject to the city’s historic preservation laws.

Bendon will create community database in the coming months that would allow a property owner, or anyone seeking information, to check whether a property has been designated as historic or is under consideration for the designation.

“It is not a moratorium,” Mayor Mick Ireland said. “It is a demolition review” that could lead to historic designation for certain properties.

The new regulation supersedes earlier codes that set the age for historic designation at 40 years, and was based on studies by city planners showing that, of the roughly 2,000 structures built in the city between 1950 and today, approximately 100 could qualify as historic for one reason or another.

The study also found that, since the year 2000, out of those 100 homes, 13 have been demolished and approximately 65 are not protected from demolition. The remaining buildings, roughly 20 percent, have been designated as formal historic landmarks.

A number of residents opposed the ordinance for a variety of reasons, ranging from concerns about the ability to upgrade a home for increased energy efficiency to worries that the new law will reduce property values for some homes.

“There is hundreds of millions in value you’re preparing to destroy,” homeowner Alec Merriam said.

Local development consultant Mitch Haas, a former city planner, said the basic idea of the new regulations is “a good one” but argued that it has not been fully thought out.

“I think 30 years is simply too young,” he said. “A person just gets to the end of their mortgage, and all of a sudden they’re historic.”

A number of opponent said the law runs counter to the city’s environmental building initiatives.

Law supporter and longtime local Jon Busch, who said proudly that he lives in a ’70s-era double-wide trailer, talked about one highly publicized example of a postwar buildings that should have been preserved.

There was the house on North First Street, where Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, the founders of Aspen’s renaissance in the 1940s, lived. The structure was essentially gutted and modernized despite its iconic status as “a home where world leaders attended dinners” over the years, Busch said.

Community activist Les Holst, supporting the ordinance, told the council that the city’s stock of older buildings ” smaller than many newer homes and reflecting styles dating back decades ” are important to the town’s sense of community.

“You’ve got to do something because we’re losing the town,” Holst said.

Support Local Journalism