Historic, Really?

by Osman Parvez

Here's a look at how at how efforts to (further) limit house sizes are conflicting with property rights.

For about the past year, I've been attending City Council meetings on the issue of pops and scrapes (now called incompatible development). At the public hearing portion of these meetings, certain members of the Landmarks Board regularly speak up (supposedly representing themselves) about the need for stricter regulations on house sizes.

At a few of these meetings, I've noticed these same Landmarks Board members seem to have organized like-minded residents to speak from the same position, thus creating the perception of many people who share their views. The group of older residents is often among the first to speak because they're the first to sign up, having arrived well before the sign-up list begins to queue. They sit together, speak among themselves, and leave together (when the group is finished speaking even though others are still getting up to speak).

Whether or not the Landmarks Board has organized these people to speak, there is no debating that members of the Landmarks Board feel strongly on this issue. Having heard them speak several times now, they are clearly a key force pushing for tough new restrictions.

Now comes along the case of 607 Forest Ave.

According to the Daily Camera, the owner is fighting historic designation with Landmarks Board. The property owner's plan was to tear down the undersized structure and build a better house. Before buying the property, he did his homework:
John Goodson, the home's owner, said he wanted to make sure he'd have the flexibility to build a different home on the site when he bought the property, so he did his research to make sure it wouldn't be declared a historic landmark. He concluded that the home wasn't historically significant.
City staff agree with his assessment, and even historic advocates say they don't support making the home a landmark over the homeowner's objections.
So why is Landmark's Board pushing to designate this dilapidated little house as historically significant?
Goodson [the property owner] said he's surprised that the landmarking is even being considered, because both the city's historic preservation staff and members of the nonprofit group Historic Boulder oppose the move.
In my opinion, it's not being considered for real historical reasons. Newlands has been the epicenter of the "incompatible development" debate and historical designation is a status that would make scraping and rebuilding nearly impossible. A designation that in this case, would also strongly reduce the value of the property.

This isn't about historical designation - this is about house size, pure and simple.

The house itself has been heavily modified over the years. Today, it even sports generic vinyl siding and modern windows and doors. Few people would call this house historic. Landmark's position is that the house is historically important partially because of who lived there - a game warden for the city.

And so the debate rages, under cover of historic designation.

I sure hope no city employees lived in my little house in the 1950's.

House pic below:

The next Boulder Real Estate Meetup is April 6th. It's a great opportunity to talk about real estate issues in Boulder. From home inspections, to property values, to home improvements. You're invited! Please RSVP here. I hope to see you there.

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