State historical review criticizes consultant
OWN perseveres on overlay, although Dave Hughes, who lined up grant (and consultant) resigns
The Westside historic-overlay effort by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) is continuing despite the resignation of Dave Hughes, who had almost
singlehandedly convinced City Council to authorize money last year for the project's design-guidelines writing phase, and dissatisfaction with the consultant Hughes
A key upcoming event will be a meeting in Denver (time and date to be announced) with OWN and the State Historical Fund (SHF), which is splitting the roughly $40,000 guidelines cost with Colorado Springs Planning. The meeting was requested “as soon as possible” by SHF historic preservation specialist Elizabeth Blackwell in the concluding paragraph of a Jan. 30 letter that states the work by project consultant Al Feinstein lacks necessary details and “is not acceptable in its present form.”
The guidelines are to be eventually used by the city to write standards for a zone comprising most of the older Westside, which property owners could use on a voluntary basis to help retain the area's historic character.
While conceding that the project is “difficult” - mainly because of the large area (including close to 4,000 buildings) and the wide range of architectural styles - Blackwell writes, “I feel that much work needs to be done… and I have concerns that the project is not on the path toward its ultimate goal.”
Tim Scanlon, the city's historic planner, had submitted Feinstein's documents to the SHF this month, in an admittedly unusual request that he said was needed to resolve a disagreement between himself and Feinstein over the quality of the consultant's documents. He described Blackwell's response as “above and beyond” what the SHF would normally do. “It should be taken as an expression that they want this to succeed.”
Informed of the SHF request at a meeting Jan. 30, the OWN board voted unanimously to work with SHF on setting up a get-together. OWN Vice President Sean Chambers proposed that Feinstein be there in person. “I think it's imperative to find out how our consultant can meet state standards,” he said.
Personal attendance could be an issue for Feinstein because he lives in Mexico and has been there for nearly all of the contract period, which started in September.
As a “poor second,” if Feinstein can't make the trip, OWN President Welling Clark left open the possibility of a telephone communication capability for the meeting. He added the hope that the consultant won't take the criticism as too much of a “kick in the gut,” adding that “the whole point is to develop a plan and achieve it. We're a team here.”
As of press deadline, Feinstein had not replied to e-mails from the Westside Pioneer, requesting his thoughts on the situation.
A four-page letter from Hughes states that he resigned from the OWN board (for which he has been treasurer since 2005), as well as from OWN's historic overlay guidelines committee, which had been formed last fall and for which he was vice-chair. The letter from the longtime Westside civic leader charges that his participation on the committee was being stifled by the committee chair (Kristine Van Wert, also an OWN board member) and that the project is turning into a “bureaucratic nightmare” that will result in “uncertain architectural guidelines.”
At the Jan. 24 meeting, when Hughes tendered his resignation, OWN members did not attempt to rebut his statements but also did not ask him to stay on the board. After he left the meeting, they praised his contributions, but indicated they thought the historic-overlay effort might go more smoothly now.
Concerning Feinstein's working from Mexico, OWN board member Bunny Blaha commented, “You'd think he'd be here evaluating buildings instead of just looking at them on paper.”
Van Wert, a nine-year OWN board member, told the other members Jan. 24 that, while the effort has been “perplexing and complicated,” she is confident that the city wants the effort to succeed and “we're most of the way through this.”
Although coming from different vantage points, both Hughes and Van Wert have been pushing for the overlay for several years. Their shared hope has been to encourage preservation of the various types of older Westside homes through a zone that would reward people for doing façade upgrades in an architecturally appropriate manner.Hughes, a longtime member and treasurer of the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) board, secured OCCHS financial assistance for the photography phase of the OWN project two years ago and went to City Council in a successful quest of financial support in early 2007.
Van Wert explained that she has volunteered dozens of hours of time entering the data in the spreadsheets that accompany the photos.
Both Hughes and Van Wert sought to chair the Overlay Committee, but OWN President Welling Clark said he chose Van Wert because of her longer service on the OWN board.
Feinstein's resume shows extensive experience in working with historic properties, both in Colorado Springs and in Cripple Creek. Hughes, who has known him for years, negotiated with Feinstein to take on the guideline-writing project for a fee that Hughes said is much lower than normal for such work.
The city share of the money came from City Planning's budget, with Scanlon writing the successful grant request to SHF.
One of the complicating factors, all parties seem to agree, is the three-way contract, which was necessary because OWN has insisted that it, not the city, should manage Feinstein's efforts. At the same time, the city has to ensure compliance with the SHF grant. This has resulted in various rules about which of the three (consultant, city or OWN) can say what to whom at different junctures.
In his letter, Hughes charged that Van Wert was hampering his ability to participate in the committee by the ways she was interpreting these rules. However, Scanlon and members of OWN suggested otherwise.
“I think Dave Hughes was invaluable in getting this machinery going,” Scanlon said. “I'm uncertain that his strengths are what we now need.”
One of the purposes of the design guidelines is to specifically analyze each property within the proposed overlay area to determine the extent (if any) of its historical contribution. The proposed area is bounded on the south by Vermijo/Cucharras streets, the west by 30th Street, the north by Uintah Street, and the east by I-25.
Westside Pioneer article