NO Landmark Preservation

Dear neighbors, friends, and clients,

After attending a community meeting on October 7th I have grave concerns. A small group calling themselves Historic Park Hill hopes to designate a portion of our neighborhood an Historic District, and may seek to expand those boundaries if their initial efforts are successful.

While I personally respect and even sympathize with their motivations because of my personal love for, and professional interest in, older home preservation and enhancement, I cannot support imposing rules which force my neighbors to conform to someone else’s aesthetic standards. To paraphrase an American ideal, I may not appreciate the appearance of your home, but I will defend your right to choose it. The prospect of more government red tape only exacerbates my opposition.

We do not need to subject ourselves to an unnecessary and exclusionary process that denies homeowners the right to make choices regarding our homes. If our neighborhood is designated an Historic District, homeowners must submit plans for any exterior alterations, additions (such as pop-tops) or demolitions – including permitted changes to windows, porches, fences, and garages – to an unelected 9-person Landmark Commission which will rule on the project’s aesthetic appropriateness for the neighborhood. This means:

    - relinquishing some control of what you can do to your own home to a government entity

    - more red tape, effectively raising costs and extending the time-frame of the project

    - denying people who wish to build a new home in Park Hill the right to do so unless it conforms to the Commission’s standards

    - impeding Park Hillians who are on a tight budget from improving their homes

This is not a stance I take for professional gain. In fact, if Historic Park Hill’s proposition were to succeed, my business would probably increase in volume. But I believe it is the right stance. Please join me in going to the website www.historicparkhill.org, and voting NO. If enough people raise their voices in opposition now, we may be able to stop this movement before the application process commences and opposition becomes more time consuming. 

Park Hill prides itself on diversity, character, and quality of life. Allowing the Historic Designation proposal to go forward will make us more exclusionary and change the very values which make our neighborhood great.

Feel free to contact me about this matter at engineroom@aol.com

Will Baker

Park Hill resident and owner of Baker Brothers Construction

For additional information about the Landmark Commission and Historic District designation, visit the official website: Denver Landmark Preservation

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Expanded Thoughts and Observations

1) Park Hill is a wonderfully diverse neighborhood comprised of many residents from all walks of life, different socio-economic levels, and widely varying values. If we prohibit certain aesthetic choices (as will necessarily happen under this designation) then we become more exclusionary, forcing some residents to conform to the taste of others. Personally I prefer the style and appeal of many of the older homes, but how boring it is to live in a neighborhood of little variety! Many quality modern, post-modern, contemporary and other homes have been built in Park Hill in the last ten years. They positively contribute to our wonderful diversity, and their residents love their homes and deserve to be welcomed to Park Hill. Several were featured in the Park Hill Home Tour and several have won architectural awards. We should not prohibit these homes and their owners because of a difference in taste.

2) If you are unhappy with the construction here, Historic Designation will not solve your woes. Most of us can point to any project and say “I would have done that differently.” That will not change under any condition. No remodel will meet everybody’s aesthetic ideal even if funding were unlimited.

3) Budgets are a limitation for most people. As a contractor I regularly meet with Park Hill homeowners who need more space for their growing families or need to perform repairs/alterations. They would like to build something beautiful, but budget is always a primary concern, so choices must be made. I cannot criticize their choice to make selective cuts to their project in favor of other priorities such as their kids’ education. This designation will limit their choices.

4) Examples of houses built, remodeled, or expanded in ways that many of us will agree are unfortunate do exist. But the vast majority of these are not done at the expense of meritorious original structures. Those that arouse the most ire seem to be those done by speculators. But their failures and successes should point the way for future speculators. Proponents of Historic Designation point to particular failures and do not note the success stories. The failures will be a loss for the investor and that person will learn or go out of business. Successes will speak for themselves.

5) I disagree with the sunny predictions that this process (should it be enacted) will come with few hassles to the majority of applicants. That ignores history. Anecdotal examples of such hassles abound and these are not exclusive to larger projects. I know one gentleman who wished to put his daughter in her own bedroom. Code required an egress window. Landmark refused to allow the change. Neither government entity would budge; it took him two years to get to a resolution. Regulatory stalemate-homeowner loses.

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Comments in response to a discussion on "Nextdoor Park Hill"

- Park Hill is not, and will not be, Hilltop. Hilltop developed as it did because it started with unremarkable small- to intermediate-size homes on LARGE lots (10,000 – 15,000 sq ft generally). Park Hill has nicer homes on smaller lots (usually 6,250 sq ft). 

- Fences do require permits, therefore are also subject to landmark approval.

- Regarding concerns about the size of new builds – this is already addressed by zoning, although this designation may add further limits.

- I have twice heard reference to "conservation overlay". One of my sources indicated that it is a much less cumbersome approach that may address many of the concerns of the people who support the Historic Neighborhood designation. 

There area proposed for designation already has tax credits available in what appears to be identical terms.  The idea that there will be additional federal credits appears to only apply to certain income-producing properties.  

I find the accelerated increase of property values argument unconvincing. The landmark people themselves indicated a minimal growth in “some” of the neighborhood designated historic. And, given that Landmark requirements will necessitate that more money be spent on remodels and, consequently, that the people doing so will need to be of greater financial means I believe that any such growth is more likely tied to the greater investment required.

I encourage people to actually read the requirements for applications on the Denver.gov.org website. I would describe them as cumbersome at best. Poptops (an admittedly lengthier example) require 1) a pre-application review meeting, 2) submitting the actual application (see checklist below for content) a minimum of 4 weeks before the next Commission meeting (see checklist below for content), 3) an application review, 4 & 5) two meetings with Landmark staff, as well as 6) a "neighbors/neighborhood" meeting presentation before the Commission review.

The following is REQUIRED for Scale & Massing Review:

1. Complete Application for Design Review

2. Site Plan

3. Elevation plans of each proposed façade (including any possible outbuildings)

    - Elevations may be just of form without details

4. Color photos of existing conditions

5. Streetscape Study showing the proposal as compared with neighboring structures

    - Include overall dimensions of neighboring structures

6. Isometric Drawings(3D) Note: A physical model may be substituted for isometric (3D) drawing set

In addition to the above documentation-the following is REQUIRED for Final Review:

7. Elevation plans of each proposed façade (including any possible outbuildings)

    - Elevationsshould be detailed with material notes and dimensions

8. Details of construction

    b. Sample board(s) or cut-sheet(s) with building materials color, texture, and other details shown

Please note: If the proposal includes demolition of an existing structure a separate demolition application will need to be approved

Comments