OWN members willing to work with city on overlay guidelines... but want details on what’s expected

       Tim Scanlon had considered getting Colorado Springs Planning staff recommendations before talking to the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) board about possible new strategies in the development of an older Westside historic overlay zone.
       Instead the city's historic preservation planner decided to find out first how the neighborhood group, which has already donated hundreds of volunteer hours to the effort, feels about the general prospects of taking on more work.
       The consensus answer, growing out of a roughly 1 1/2-hour discussion at the March 27 OWN board meeting, was that members are willing to stay the course but would like a clearer idea of the “level of effort,” as OWN President Welling Clark phrased it.
       One key question that still needs to be resolved is who should decide what buildings “contribute” to the proposed zone - and are thus eligible for tax incentives when their owners do façade restoration work - and which are not. Scanlon proposes that OWN members, after receiving training on historic design styles, take on this responsibility.
       Such decisions were to have been made, as part of an overall quest to create design guidelines specific to the Westside, by an architectural consultant who had been hired last September under matching City Planning and State Historical Fund grants. However, the city just terminated that person's contract. With only $20,000 available now to pay for consulting work (out of the original city/state $30,000), it's unknown whether another such specialist can be found for the lower amount and on short notice.
       Scanlon said he could make the contribution decisions himself, but noted that some West-siders who feel strongly about historic preservation might have a problem with “an outsider evaluating your neighborhood.”
       This concern seemed to be substantiated by comments from Nancy Miceli, a member of OWN's historic overlay subcommittee. When Scanlon pointed out that one option at this point would be to give up the overlay effort altogether, she retorted, “I wouldn't cancel this for anything in the world, no matter how much pain there is.” However, she added, “I don't really trust the city to go through with this.”
       Another issue was raised by Kristine Van Wert, OWN board member and chair of the overlay subcommittee, that perhaps the city is making the project bigger than it needs to be. Partly reiterating arguments used by the terminated consultant, she questioned whether a detailed summary of the Westside's building evolution is needed for the guidelines and proposed that boilerplate lifted from the guidelines in other cities would suffice. However, the city and state disagree, as Scanlon reiterated. One issue is the size of the proposed historic-overlay zone, which would be by far the biggest in Colorado Springs. Analysis is needed on a total of 3,659 “principal structures” existing on 3,505 parcels, according to Scanlon.
       City steps already in the works include a breakdown of tasks between the city, state, OWN and consultant; and developing a work plan in which the consultant would be aided by an intern and document-formatting specialist. The latter two individuals would be cumulatively paid $5,000. That amount, plus the $5,000 paid to the terminated consultant, leaves $20,000 for a new consultant out of the original $30,000.
       Time is of some concern. The state grant money must be spent by March 2009. And, because none of the original consultant's work was considered acceptable, approximately six months from the original timetable have been lost. While not expressing panic, Scanlon told OWN there is a need to move forward “fairly quickly.”
       In other business, OWN hosted a meeting between Victorian Heights developer Ted Cox and principal leaders of the neighborhood opposition to his proposed development near 28th and Uintah streets.
       Clark said the meeting was intended to seek middle ground between the factions, but such did not occur. Cox revealed a plan, as yet unsubmitted to the city, that would reduce the density to 9 single family houses instead of the formerly proposed 12 units in six duplex buildings.
       However, Larry Hudson, who has been the chief neighborhood spokesperson, made it clear that he and his neighbors are concerned about any size development on the property north of Wilhelmia Avenue, at the base of a steep slope, because of slippage potential. Cox has proposed sinking a series of deep piers into the slope above his buildings, in a state-approved method of controlling such problems, but these come with no absolute guarantees, and neighbors point to slippage having already occurred there (without construction) as well as in a nearby neighborhood below a slope where a development went in about 25 years ago.
       Asked by Cox if the neighborhood would oppose the project if it was just two units, Hudson said yes.

Westside Pioneer article