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Questions Answered: Proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance

By: Estes Park Historian Laureate Jim Pickering
January 21, 2011

The citizen-led Historic Preservation Ordinance Committee is seeking citizen feedback on a draft voluntary historic preservation ordinance for Estes Park. The ordinance would help to better document and preserve the unique character and history of Estes Park by allowing Town property owners who wish to participate to have their homes and business buildings recognized as Local Historic Landmarks. At a public hearing, which will be set in spring of 2011, the committee will present the draft ordinance and citizen feedback to the Estes Park Town Board as it considers whether it wants to adopt the ordinance.

To learn more about the proposed ordinance, citizens should attend a public forum facilitated by the committee in the Town Board Room at Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Avenue. The first public forum will be held February 17 at 2 p.m.; a second forum will be held February 24 at 6:30 p.m. The draft ordinance is available for review at, in Room 150 of Town Hall, located at 170 MacGregor Avenue, and at the Estes Valley Library, located at 335 East Elkhorn Avenue.

The Historic Preservation Ordinance Committee consists of John Baudek (chair), Ron Norris (vice-chair and secretary), Paula Steige, Dave Tanton, Bill Van Horn and Sharry White. Staff support is provided by Derek Fortini, Estes Park Museum Manager. Trustee Jerry Miller provides on-going liaison with the Town Board. As Estes Park Historian Laureate, I serve as an advisor to the committee.

On successive Fridays, beginning January 14, please watch for this series of newspaper columns in which I will answer commonly asked questions about Historic Preservation Ordinances in general and specific questions about the Historic Preservation Ordinance being proposed for Estes Park. Please send me your questions on the proposed ordinance at

Q. How will a preservation ordinance be administered?

A. It will establish Historic Preservation Commission made up of local citizen to guide and direct the Town’s preservation activities.

Q. What specific powers and responsibilities does the proposed ordinance assign to the Historic Preservation Commission?

A. Under the proposed ordinance the Commission’s powers and responsibilities include the following: (1) conducting an going “Reconnaissance Survey” of buildings and sites within Town limits in order to establish a basic inventory or registry of Estes Park’s historic places (something that the Town at present does not have); (2) reviewing the nominations and applications of properties so identified for possible designation as local historic landmarks or local historic districts, conducting comprehensive surveys of those properties, and making a formal recommendation on designation to the Board of Trustees; (3) reviewing and making a determination on Alteration Certificates required for the significant alteration of the exterior appearance of designated landmark properties; (4) advising property owners and others about the benefits, financial and otherwise, of historic preservation; (5) serving as a community-wide resource for those interested in historic preservation; and (6) fulfilling the duties required for Estes Park’s participation in Colorado’s Certified Local Government (CLG) program (see below).

Q. Who will sit on the Historic Preservation Commission?

A. The Commission’s seven (7) members will be local citizens appointed to staggered terms by the Mayor, through the Town’s usual application and appointment process. Members will be selected from applications on the basis of their interest in historic preservation and their expertise and background in preservation-related fields and activities.

Q. Can the Historic Preservation Commission, on its own and over time, assume additional duties and responsibilities (especially those that might be seen as somehow limiting the rights of local property owners)?

A. No. Changes in the authority and responsibilities of the Historic Preservation Commission can only come from the Town Board in the form of an amendment (or amendments) to the original ordinance.

Q. What exactly is a local Historic Landmark and a local Historic District and what does it mean to become designated as such?

A. A local Historic Landmark is a building or site of local historic and/or cultural interest that has been identified as having met certain basic criteria set forth in the ordinance itself. Historic districts are geographically defined areas within a community that contain a number of properties which share a common history or common aesthetic and/or architectural features. A district may also comprise individual buildings separated geographically but linked together by association or history. (Since not all properties, even those in close proximity with one another, usually share the same things, properties within a given geographical area are described as being either “contributing” or “non-contributing.”).

Designation is the official act of recognizing the historic importance of individual buildings or sites, or the buildings and sites within a geographically-defined district. Under the proposed ordinance, the designation of an historic landmark or an historic district will be made by Estes Park’s Board of Trustees.

Q. What are the criteria for designation?

A. Under the proposed ordinance, a building or site must meet two or more of the following criteria:

1. In the case of a building, be at least fifty (50) years of age, unless exceptional historic significance can be demonstrated.

2. Has significant character, interest or value, as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the Town of Estes Park, the State of Colorado, or the United States; or is associated with the life of a person significant in the past; or

3. Is the site of an historic event with a significant effect on society; or

4. Exemplifies the cultural, political, economic, social or historic heritage of the Estes Park community.

5. Be archeologically significant if a Site has yielded, or is likely to yield, important information regarding history or prehistory.

Q. What is the relationship between a Local Historic Landmark and properties listed on the State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places?

A. Historic landmark designation by local government has no direct connection, as such, with listing in the State or National Register of Historic Places. While a local historic landmark may qualify for State and/or National listings, these are separate processes with separate criteria and separate consequences. The Colorado Register of Historic Properties (cultural resources “worthy of preservation for the future education and enjoyment of Colorado residents and visitors”), established in 1975, is administered by the Colorado Historical Society. The National Register of Historic Places (“National Historic Landmarks . . . designated by Secretary of the Interior for their significance to all Americans”), established in 1935, is administered by the National Park Service under the Secretary of the Interior.

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