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Council reverses BOZAR decision to prohibit demolition

Conditions emphasize effort to recycle the structure

By Mark Reaman

The Crested Butte Town Council on Tuesday overturned a decision by the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) that denied an application to demolish a house on the west side of town. In a rare appeal of a BOZAR decision, the council held a 90-minute hearing on the issue before voting 4-1 to overturn the demolition denial.

The house in question is located at 20 Third Street and was built in 1977. Mike Haney, who splits time between Crested Butte and Chicago with plans to move here full-time, owns the “imitation Victorian”–style home. Haney spoke to the council about the poor construction of the house and his hope to build a “code-compliant, livable and energy-efficient house that meets Crested Butte design guidelines on the lot. The current structure is not historical and has never been identified in town surveys as architecturally significant.”

Haney said he has made some upgrades to the home in the time he has owned it, but much of those are cosmetic, with paint and landscaping. “I’m hoping the work I put into the house will not be held against me,” he said. He said a proposed replacement home would be three times as energy-efficient and work better for his current life, which includes a son and the need for bigger spaces like a decent kitchen.

Haney’s attorney, Aaron Huckstep, argued to the council that BOZAR failed to consider any possibility of a conditional approval. He provided the council with some possible conditions, such as allowing the town to take possession of the current structure for affordable housing in some other location. If that didn’t work, Huckstep said other parties had expressed interest in obtaining the structure.

Crested Butte community development director Michael Yerman said BOZAR turned down the demolition permit on the basis that the house exemplified the style and design appropriate for the R-1 zone. It was also meant to protect the unique character of Crested Butte. He said the BOZAR vote was not unanimous.

Crested Butte preservation coordinator Molly Minneman said the board also made its decision based on public comment received. Much of that public comment urged rejection of the demolition application since the building represented a period of Crested Butte history.

Four letters were received for the appeal proceedings and all urged that the Town Council overturn the BOZAR decision. A person interested in moving the house to Crested Butte South wrote a fifth letter.

Citizen Sue Navy spoke and urged the council to uphold the BOZAR decision. “Houses are a part of our history,” she said. “Just because a house is not quite historic doesn’t mean it should be allowed to be torn down.”

Former town planner John Hess also asked the council to uphold the BOZAR decision. He said he owned the former “Bath House” in town and was able to renovate that, so such on-site work was a better alternative to a teardown. He said even recent town structures that were demolished like the Cell Blocks didn’t have as much “significance as this 41-year-old home. The residence deserves to be preserved, not demolished,” he said.

Huckstep emphasized that the structure did not meet the town definition of being historical, had not been given architectural significance by the town and had close neighbors in favor of the demolition with an appropriate replacement.

As far as renovating the house instead of starting over, Huckstep said Haney tried that in 2010 and the town turned down his proposal. “It is not a simple process,” he said. He also pointed out the town allowed the Cell Blocks to be demolished and they were more than 50 years old, thus meeting the “historical” classification.

Councilmembers asked questions trying to clarify the town code and how the structure fit into the mix.

In response to a question from councilman Will Dujardin, Haney said he would be willing to look at a new design that reflected a “Western Victorian” look. “We are flexible,” said Haney. “If they have a preference for an exterior style, I’m happy to work with them.”

Councilmember Laura Mitchell said the Town Council didn’t have a lot of choice in its decision. “If we want to make an ordinance in the future to protect that era of house, we can. But right now, we don’t have a leg to stand on. Other houses have been allowed to be torn down but this one happens to be cute and Victorian.”

Councilman Chris Haver was on the same page. “I agree we should update the code,” he said, “but for now we have to live by the code as written and as we interpret it.”

“It feels like the BOZAR—no disrespect to my friends—made an emotional decision more than one based on the town code,” said Dujardin.

Mayor Jim Schmidt said the homeowner was offering major mitigations. “I feel the applicant’s conditions that are being offered are worthwhile to include in our decision,” he said.

The council did that as Mitchell moved to overturn the BOZAR decision but included the conditions proposed by Haney. Those conditions basically stated the town could take the house as a donation within 45 days of a new application approval. If that didn’t work out, Haney would try to donate the house to a local non-profit or to a local resident who wanted to use it for housing. If that didn’t work out, the house could be demolished after the applicant delivered a recycling plan and if BOZAR approved a new design plan for a residence on the lot.

The council approved that motion 4-1, with Petito voting against it.

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