OWN fund raiser to bolster historic-overlay plan

       Seeking non-mandatory protection for the Westside's historic homes, the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) is starting to fund-raise for money to cover part of the planning costs.
       The initial event will be the first-ever Old Colorado City Historic Halloween Tour and Ghost Story Reading Oct. 29-30 (see story, Page 8).
       The goal is to raise $2,000 to match an equal amount donated earlier this year by the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS). The money would fund photographic documentation of some 4,000 homes that would be in a proposed “historic overlay” zone bounded by Uintah Street on the north, Eighth Street on the east, Vermijo Street on the south and 30th Street on the west.
       An overlay would mean property owners in that area would need to go through a process with the Colorado Springs Historic Preservation Board (HPB) before they could obtain a building permit for renovations visible from the public right of way. However, an owner would have the option of ignoring the HPB - as is the policy with the current overlay zone for the Old North End Neighborhood (ONEN) north of the downtown.
       The “carrots” in the process would be a tax credit for historically compliant improvements, as well as the potential for increased property values. Owners working with the review process would also have the benefit of learning more about historical preservation from HPB members and city staff, according to Tim Scanlon, the city planner for the HPB.
       OWN board member Kristine Van Wert believes an overlay zone would help protect the Westside from development that would erode its unique historic character. At the OWN meeting Sept. 23, she was adamant that such a zone include Colorado Avenue, on which modern buildings have replaced older ones here and there in recent years. “I saw the destruction of Denver,” she said, mentioning Colfax Avenue as an example. “If we leave the avenue out, it will defeat the purpose.”
       New board member Dave Hughes did not disagree with her, but advised that the plan would likely be opposed by some commercial property owners who don't like such restrictions.
       All the OWN board members agreed that it will be essential to get “buy-in” - as Sallie Clark put it - from the Westside neighborhood as a whole.
       Attending the meeting was Scanlon, who advised the board that achieving a historic overlay would be a “long process” over several months.
       Obtaining the photographs would be the first of 17 steps, according to a chart presented at the meeting. Along the way would be numerous opportunities for public input, a flow chart indicates. The effort would include the development of design standards in conjunction with the HPB, and eventually City Council would need to give formal approval for the zone.
       OWN, in conjunction with OCCHS, had applied for a grant for the $2,000 from the El Pomar Foundation earlier this year, but was turned down. Van Wert said this was not a big surprise, because El Pomar “doesn't really handle historic grants.”
       OWN members took initial steps on the overlay plan earlier this year, going to the County Assessor's Office to identify homes in the suggested overlay area.
       OWN is the neighborhood association for the Westside (within the boundaries of Rio Grande Street, Manitou Springs, Uintah/ King streets and I-25). The group was inspired to consider an overlay plan after it did a survey in 2002 that found 96 percent of Westsiders favored historic preservation.

Westside Pioneer article