Letter: Another historic Steamboat landmark bites the dust
F.M. Light is one of Steamboat’s most recognizable names and is deeply intertwined with the history of our community. In 1905, F.M. Light built a stately home on the knoll above where Soda Creek Elementary School is now located. The F.M. Light House was listed on both the Routt County and State of Colorado historic registers by Light family descendants. The City of Steamboat Springs Historic Register did not exist when the Light family owned the home.
If the F.M. Light house had been located in Aspen, Breckenridge, Crested Butte or Telluride, it would have been protected from demolition and could have been remodeled by following recognized design guidelines for historic properties. In these communities, historic homes are protected, and homeowners of historic homes are considered stewards of their town’s heritage.
Here in Steamboat, we do things differently. Steamboat Springs does not protect historic buildings unless their owners voluntarily list them on the City Historic Register or follow guidelines from the City’s Historic Preservation Commission. Because the owners of the F.M. Light house chose not to list the house on the Steamboat Springs Historic Register or to follow the HPC’s suggested preservation guidelines (despite requests to do both), the F.M. Light House’s historic integrity was not protected. Now, yet another irreplaceable community landmark is being “remodeled” out of existence.
Some may feel that enforceable historic preservation protections are an infringement on private property rights. But regulations protecting historic structures can and do allow for remodels and partial demolitions, while ensuring they are done in a manner that respects (rather than erases) the integrity and identity of the historical structure. In the other towns mentioned above, historical preservation protections are part of the required planning process and are administered alongside other customary planning regulations like set-backs and height restrictions.
Steamboat Springs is missing the boat (so to speak) on historic preservation. Studies show that preservation of historic structures benefits the community in a variety of ways, by enhancing community identity, increasing property values, creating new jobs and helping support tourism. Yet, with each passing year, more of our historic structures are lost. Bit by bit, the pieces of the past that make us who we are today are disappearing.
It is time to strengthen the protections for our historic structures.
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