Historic overlay plan not yet finalized
A well-attended Organi-zation of Westside Neighbors (OWN) meeting featured a historic overlay discussion Jan. 26, after which OWN President Welling Clark said he hopes to schedule follow-up “work sessions” to work out details, starting this month.
Erin McCauley and Carl Shuler of City Land Use Review presented the city's “scattered sites” strategy at the meeting. Under that concept, people owning historically “contributing” properties could apply for individual overlay zones. But Clark said he still holds out hope for a “hybrid” version, based on OWN's proposal to allow broader participation (by allowing any homeowners to apply for historic recognition anytime they wanted to).
He called this “not a 'thou shalt' but a carrot.” The benefit would be the preservation of more Westside homes, which would be a plus in terms of aesthetics, property values and long-range economic development, OWN believes.
Clark said he will announce the work sessions, which will be open to the public, as soon as he gets them scheduled.
Public comments at the meeting did not show preferences for one plan or another, but a general sense that historic preservation is important. Sharon Swint, president of the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS), remarked that the goal is “not just monetary. We want to preserve the Westside as a historical area.”
Jim Fenimore, a former OWN president, said, “If we do away with the charm and the character, people [tourists] will stay home.”
Both the city and OWN proposals would be voluntary, although in the city version, once a property has gotten zoned it would always have to face historic review on any home-exterior projects (although owners could get around that by waiting 90 days for a building permit).
The city's position is that while the Westside has plenty of historic homes, there's not a heavy enough concentration in any one place to qualify for an overlay that would cover a geographic area, such as OWN desires.
OWN has rebutted that by noting that in the previous eight years, working with the city to hammer out an overlay plan, its representatives had been told a geographic area was desirable; in fact, one was used for the “Westside Design Guidelines” document two years ago that the city helped pay for. That document identified 3,600 homes (nearly 2,000 contributing) in an older-Westside area north of Highway 24.
But different staffers are working on the matter now. Also, the city no longer has a planner assigned specifically to historic preservation, and with budget cuts there's an interest in maximizing what staff time there is by finding out how many Westsiders are actually interested in having an overlay zone.
Another contention by the city is that “if the overlay has no regulation component the state will not recognize the properties under that overlay as being eligible for the tax credits,” according to McCauley.
Clark said he is not sure that is correct and would be happy to have a meeting or teleconference involving OWN, the city and the State Historical Fund (SHF).
The “tax credits” McCauley mentioned are those that have been offered through the SHF - 20 percent on historic projects costing over $5,000. These have been a key historic-overlay inducement to homeowners statewide in recent years. However, that program is currently unfunded for state budget reasons, Shuler pointed out.
Westside Pioneer article