EDITORíS DESK: The collision of the overlay plans
After about eight years and a lot of discussion (and I do mean a lot), the long-proposed Westside historic overlay may finally be coming to a head. A "town meeting" by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) Jan. 26 will allow attendees to hear the two competing plans and offer opinions on them.
As far as I can tell, either would work. One is by OWN itself, the other by the city's Land Use Review division. The catch is that OWN will probably need far more than a bare majority (whether at this meeting or future public meetings) to eventually get its way. After all, the houses in question are in the city, and any zone would be the ultimate responsibility of city staff; plus, the Historic Preservation Board's volunteers are appointed by the City Council. Heck, OWN itself is able to publish its quarterly newsletter, organize the annual Westside picnic and take on other advocacy activities thanks to big-time help from federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds that (yes) are allocated by the city.
So it figures that Land Use Review staffers would much prefer a plan that they're fully comfortable with. The only way that might change is if there's a groundswell of support for the OWN plan, and I know OWN hopes for that - especially considering all the time its volunteers have devoted: helping the city analyze 3,600-some dwellings in the older Westside, as well as spending $2,000 (matched by the Old Colorado City Historical Society) to professionally photograph all that housing stock.
So what's the overlay fuss about? We attempt to provide details in our Page 1 article, but a sound bite might define the OWN proposal as more casual and broad-brush and the city plan as more formal and limited. With the city approach, I suppose a few hundred property owners might step up, pay to become individually zoned and accept the requirement for Historic Preservation review of their building permits. A plus for Westside architecture. But might not the OWN approach, while potentially awkward and overreaching, offer the possibility of attracting a wider range of property owners - Westsiders who'd instinctively see the city approach as overly controlling - and thus result in broader preservation? I guess we'll be talking about it. See you on the 26th?