OWN begins building tally
Effort could lead to historic overlay distric

       Everyone knows that buildings on the Westside have (to paraphrase “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”) “a lot of history.”
       Just how much history, nobody knows for sure. But the information - at least structurally - is on its way to being found out.
       The end result could be an “historic overlay” district for the area bounded by Uintah Street on the north, Eighth Street on the east, Vermijo Street on the south and 30th Street on the west. Such an overlay would mean property owners in that area need to get historically oriented city reviews before they can do any building-permit renovations visible from the public right of way. While this review process would be required, people could still build as they chose; historically compliant work would be eligible for tax credits.
       But that scenario – based on what’s in place in the city’s North End neighborhood – is probably months away and still would require City Council approval.
       For now, representatives of the volunteer Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) are starting research at the County Assessor’s Office that will eventually determine how many structures are in the proposed overlay area.
        Long-time Westside leader Dave Hughes told the Westside Pioneer there could be as many as 5,000. Tim Scanlon, the city planner for the Colorado Springs Historic Preservation Board, estimates at least “several thousand.”
        Once the structures have been identified, a documentation effort would be expected to follow, including photographs and descriptions recording the appropriate historical detail. Because this effort would require specialists and considerable time, a grant would be necessary to pay for it, Hughes said. He has told OWN he is willing to help with the grant application.
       A Westside history buff, Hughes said, “Recording a historical documentation of these buildings is worth it on its own merits,” even if the overlay plan itself never gains council approval. He said he wants to participate in the project as long as the overlay process has the potential of working in the mutual interest of the community and the homeowners. He would be concerned, he said, if the emphasis moves toward enforcement against those who do not comply with historic-preservation standards as opposed to rewarding (through tax credits) those who do.
       Kristine Van Wert of OWN said the group’s effort is in response to an OWN survey. OWN is the neighborhood association for the Westside (within the boundaries of Rio Grande Street, Manitou Springs, Uintah/King streets and I-25).
        The winter 2002 issue of the quarterly OWN newsletter, Westside Story, asked its 8,000 direct-mail recipients two questions related to preserving the “historic character” of the Westside.
       In the roughly 130 responses, 96 percent favored historic preservation, Van Wert said. Acting on this feedback, OWN announced in its summer 2003 newsletter plans to move forward on the documentation project.
        Now that the effort is underway, Van Wert said a little help from historic-preservation advocates would be nice. “It’s an awful lot of work for a handful of people,” she said. “We’re hoping other people will chip in.”
        Both Van Wert and Scanlon stressed that the overlay, once in place, is not intended to stop people from performing building upgrades that do not meet historical criteria (except, as Scanlon noted, on the 28 buildings in Old Colorado City’s main commercial area that are on the National Historic Registry).
       Scanlon added that, if the same rules apply to the Westside as in the North End overlay, the historic review will have no extra fee and will typically be completed before Regional Building gets done with its approval process.
        The council-appointed board’s seven members all are required to have experience or expertise in historic renovation, he said.
       The board’s guidelines and standards for Westside structures would be developed by the city in conjunction with Westside residents in an attempt to respond to the unique aspects of the area, he said. Unlike the general uniformity of buildings in the North End - whose residents worked out an overlay zone with the city in 2000 - the Westside has numerous types of older structures, Scanlon said. As examples, he said there are architectural differences on the avenue, in Old Colorado City, the Midland area and the Near Westside.
       Van Wert, who has lived in an older Westside home with her husband, Larry, for about 12 years, believes that a historic-overlay review process should be seen not as intrusive government bureaucracy but rather as “getting access to people who can help you do a better job.”
       With an historic overlay in place, she said the area would be surer of retaining - or increasing - property values that have risen substantially in the past decade. “It’s such an important historic area,” she said. “You’d think it would have been done already.”

Westside Pioneer Article