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Questions Answered: Proposed Historic Preservation Ordinance

By: Estes Park Historian Laureate Jim Pickering

January 28, 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 buildings and sites eligible for designation be identified?

A. One of the primary responsibilities of the Historic Preservation Commission is to establish a registry of the Town’s historic buildings and sites.

As the proposed ordinance notes, “The purpose of this Local Registry is to provide the Town with a permanent record of its designated historic resources and to encourage their Preservation, enhancement, and perpetuation.”

This local registry will be developed on the basis of a preliminary non-intrusive survey known as a “Reconnaissance” (or, less formally, as a “Windshield” or “Drive-by”) Survey, which consists of gathering the kind of information that can be obtained by driving or walking the streets of the Town and by inspecting public records. This information (in the form of addresses, brief descriptions of a property’s architectural features and/or historical significance, and, possibly, photographs) will be used by the Historic Preservation Commission to establish a local registry of the Town’s historic assets, copies of which, periodically updated, will be made available in the Office of the Town Clerk, at the Estes Valley Library, and at the Estes Park Museum.

The local registry will serve to identify properties or sites as candidates for formal designation as an historic landmark or for inclusion in an historic district.

The Historic Preservation Commission will notify the owners of those properties or sites that they may be eligible for formal designation. (Interested citizens will be encouraged to nominate properties they believe are eligible for historic designation as well.)

If, an only if, an owner is willing to have his or her property designated, and files a formal application signifying that desire, a formal in-depth Comprehensive Survey will be undertaken by the Historic Preservation Commission. This survey will be conducted in accordance with methods consistent with state and federal guidelines and with Colorado’s historic preservation planning processes. On the basis of a completed application and a Comprehensive Survey, and following a public hearing, a recommendation on designation will be made to the Board of Trustees for its action.

Q. How will the Town of Estes Park recognize properties that become designated as a local Historic Landmark?

A. Under the proposed ordinance public recognition will take two forms. First the Town will provide property owners with a suitable plaque to be displayed in accordance with guidelines to be developed by the Historic Preservation Commission. Second, designated properties will be entered into the formal record of the Town to be known as The Registry of Designated Local Historic Landmarks and Landmark Districts in the Town of Estes Park.

Q. Must the owner of a property that the Historic Preservation Commission identifies as having historical importance have it designated a local Historic Landmark?

A. No. One of the most distinctive aspects of the proposed ordinance is that participation by property owners is to be entirely voluntary.

Q. But hasn’t the Town already identified many of its most historic buildings? What about those plaques on buildings along Elkhorn Avenue?

A. The Town of Estes Park has never conducted any kind of comprehensive survey to identify the historic properties that constitute its cultural, artistic, social, economic, political, architectural, or historic heritage in order to compile an inventory of its historical assets. While it is true that Town used the occasion of its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1992 to identify some of the historic buildings in the downtown business district, and produced a walking tour brochure keyed to those particular buildings, its efforts were limited to one geographical area and to commercial buildings. Moreover, no record apparently exists of the criteria used for their identification or the source (or sources) of the information the present plaques contain. It is also now clear that even along Elkhorn and Moraine Avenues any number of buildings and sites of genuine historic interest and importance are currently unidentified.

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