City wins grant for historical survey of Steamboat’s mountain area
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While there has been extensive surveying of historically significant structures in the Old Town area of Steamboat Springs, no surveys have been conducted around Mount Werner.
That is changing with the recent award of a $31,800 grant to the city of Steamboat from the State Historical Fund.
There is a 50-year-old age mark for determining historic value, explained Erica Swissler Hewitt, a historic preservation consultant. And in recent years, a number of structures built on and around Steamboat Resort are reaching that age.
For example, the original Sheraton building began construction in 1971, and The Ptarmigan Inn was constructed around the same time.
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Whenever someone applies for a permit to change or demolish a structure, it has been part of Hewitt’s job to determine historical significance. That relates to architecture as well as people and events.
She determines whether or not a structure is an eligible resource. From there, she takes that information to the Historic Preservation Committee.
But even that designation doesn’t prevent demolition, though it can put a 30-day hold on properties, Hewitt said.
According to a news release, the Mountain Area Project will produce analysis and data similar to what was done for Old Town Steamboat Springs, where nearly 500 architectural and historical inventories of properties have been conducted since 2000.
“This information is key in notifying property owners and citizens of the historical significance of their buildings, encourage historic landmarking of properties and inform owners of the financial benefits of listing their properties on a historic register,” the release stated.
Once the snow melts, the project will include a survey of approximately 75 properties and 10 intensive surveys on historic structures.
“With projects coming through the planning and building permit review process, and for those 50 years and older through the Historic Preservation Commission, survey information is critical to determine eligibility for the Local Register of Historic Places, make appropriate decisions and recommendations to property owners,” Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey said in the news release.
The city also is in the process of hiring a new historic preservation planner. It was a position that existed in the past but was cut.
Hewitt, who now acts as a contractor for the city, said the staff role is needed. A number of other resort towns in Colorado have more stringent protections in place when it comes to their historic structures, she said.
In Steamboat, “there aren’t a lot of restrictions,” she said. It’s a positive in terms of the rights of property owners, but for most buildings, “someone at any point could tear it down, and there’s not much you could do about it.”
And once a structure is considered an eligible resource, it can open more doors, like putting properties on a historic register, which can come with significant financial incentives for owners.
Hewitt pointed to one recent project in which an owner received a $10,000 tax credit through a state program for work on their house.
The Mountain Area Project, Hewitt said, will allow the city to gather more information and determine what is worth protecting.
“Then (the city can) come back to the community and say, ‘What do you think?’” Hewitt said.
And there might be a lot more history living in the structures built around the mountain than people realize, she said.
“Development is still steadily increasing in the mountain area, which means influxes of permits for alterations and demolitions of older properties,” Bessey said. “Properties in this area have reached 50 years old, and Steamboat Springs is in danger of losing historic architecture from the beginning of the resort development era.”
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