Minturn creates Historic Preservation Commission, amends town code to protect architecture and heritage

Increased development pressure has prompted the town of Minturn to write a new chapter of code in an effort to protection and preservation the town's architecture, culture, and heritage. The ordinance to amend the town code passed the council unanimously in June.
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In October, when local Kelly Toon received an appeal hearing for a planning commission decision regarding the allowable uses of a 100-year-old building in Minturn, the discussion often pivoted to the creation of a historic preservation district in Minturn and what that would involve.

Many residents who spoke expressed a desire to see historic preservation in Minturn, and Toon, in his testimony before the commission, said part of his motivation in filing the appeal was the urgency he felt in trying to save the building.

Commissioner Jeff Armistead said the issue exemplified his opinion that there are “glaring holes” in the town code.

After that hearing, in which the commission’s decision was upheld, the town passed moratoriums on the processing of design and demolition applications until September 2022 in an effort to address shortfalls in the code.

In November, the town sent out a call for volunteers to assist in the establishment of a draft historic preservation ordinance, and in January, the town hosted two Historic Preservation Committee meetings.

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Following those meetings, the town hired attorney Terry Gorrell to draft an ordinance that would be compatible with the Minturn town code. The ordinance calls for the town to add a new chapter of code related to historic preservation.

The new chapter of code is about 20 pages with a defined intent to “create a reasonable balance between private property rights and the public interest in preserving the town’s unique historic character through the nomination of buildings, structures, sites, objects, and historic districts for preservation.”

The new chapter of code also calls for the creation of a Historic Preservation Commission.

Properties must be at least 75 years old to be nominated for preservation status to the new commission, and those properties must meet other criteria, as well, which could include location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, or even a feeling or association at the site.

Toon spoke during a public hearing for the ordinance on June 15, saying he would have preferred to set a date — sometime prior to World War II — for eligibility, rather than a moving target of 75 years from the time of nomination.

“If you’re talking historic, most of the stuff I wanted to focus on was the stuff that’s from the ’30s and before that, which I think had some architectural detailing that was much better than, say, post-World War II,” Toon said. “We didn’t have any significant buildings built in mid-century modern style.”

The council considered Toon’s recommendation regarding the timing but ultimately stuck with the 75-year designation. Council member Kate Schifani said she didn’t want to project current-day opinions of what is historic on future residents.

Looking to the future, “to say that a town council 30 years ago determined that nothing that happened after 1947 is worth being historic I think is a little bit arbitrary and unfair to the people that would be making these considerations,” Schifani said.

The ordinance to amend the town code and create the new commission passed the council on the second reading on June 15; the decision was unanimous among the seven-member body.

In a memo issued to town staff prior to its passage, town staff told the council that the updates to the town code are necessary as a result of an increase in development pressure. The town has seen several new development applications in recent years.

“With the increased pressure, it became evident that Minturn’s code needed an overhaul in certain sections as well as the establishment of new sections to allow for a more robust toolbox to address the town’s growing development interests while maintaining the values identified in the 2009 Community Plan values and the 2021-2023 Minturn Strategic Plan vision and strategies,” staff told the council in a June 15 memo.

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