Once-secret historic list irks Aspen homeowners
ASPEN ” Worried their homes can’t be altered or demolished in the future, some Aspen residents have been given the coveted “list” of properties city officials think might be historic.
After hearing rumors that City Hall has a list of 65 properties that might have homes of historic value and need further study, residents for weeks have been asking for it to be released publicly.
But city staff refused, saying the list is a working document and releasing it would be premature. They told property owners the list wasn’t a public document, although it was distributed to City Council members earlier this month.
“Our position has been that we’ve done preliminary research and it’s a windshield survey,” said Amy Guthrie, City Hall’s historic preservation officer. “The concern from people is that a decision has already been made but it hasn’t.”
Meanwhile, residents who went directly to Mayor Mick Ireland were able to obtain the list from him. Those who couldn’t get the document showed up in mass last week during a City Council meeting, demanding that the list be made public.
The City Council apparently wasn’t aware of the controversy surrounding the document and questioned city staff concerning its release. Guthrie and the city’s community development director, Chris Bendon, said they were waiting for direction from the council on the matter.
The secrecy surrounding the list comes in the wake of a recently passed law that requires buildings more than 30 years old to be reviewed for historical significance. The ordinance has many homeowners fearful of local government.
City Council passed the ordinance earlier this month as an emergency and with no public notice. Officials justified the move by saying development pressures in Aspen show that many historic structures from the post-World War II era are being demolished at a rapid rate.
“It’s interesting to me that by word of mouth, 10 houses on my block are on that list,” said Jack Wilke. “We didn’t ask for this and now the burden is on us [to prove if a property is historic] … I think it is totally unfair.”
The ordinance mandates that property owners must submit to a review of whether their home or commercial building is historically significant if they plan to apply for a building or demolition permit.
Marilyn Marks, who lives in the West End, has been requesting the list of potentially historic properties for weeks.
“The city’s incomplete list of 65 properties which they wish to study further for landmark designation has been handled in an inappropriate way, with access denied to some citizens and access given to others,” she wrote in an e-mail message to her neighbors and sent to The Aspen Times. “This is valuable information, even if it is preliminary, disclosed by city officials on a selective basis.”
The City Council has since distributed the list to all members of the public.