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Press of development making it hard for county to work on historic preservation

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GARFIELD COUNTY – The development plans of today are getting in the way of efforts to protect treasured buildings of the past in rural areas of Garfield County.A group of historic preservation advocates has been pushing for a formal preservation program, but the county is so busy trying to keep up with new developments and other pressing demands that it hasn’t been able to move forward on the request.”We’ve got so many irons in the fire we can’t keep up with them all,” said County Commissioner John Martin, who said he has been interested for years in having the county get involved in historic preservation.Glenwood Springs resident Glenn Vawter wrote commissioners last week, urging them to direct county staff to present them with their findings about a historic preservation program.”With all the development in the County we understand how busy the Planning Department and County Attorney’s office are, but we also think this is an initiative that deserves time and effort,” Vawter wrote.”Maybe I’m just becoming too impatient in my old age but we’ve been at this over two years,” Vawter said in an interview.”I know they’re very busy, they’ve got so much going on in the county, especially in the planning department. They tell me they’re working on it and doing the best they can but they never quite get there.”Martin said commissioners also have asked the planning department for information about what could be done to keep historic buildings from having to be gutted to meet present-day building codes, but has yet to receive it.He noted that the department has its hands full with several major development proposals. The nearly 6,000-acre Spring Valley Ranch development, which would include 577 homes, is headed for a hearing before commissioners Dec. 6. A redevelopment plan for Sunlight Mountain Resort also has been submitted to the planning department, and the owners of the former Bair Chase property south of Glenwood have been considering proposing a residential development of nearly 1,000 homes.The county also is dealing with big development plans downvalley and is in the midst of a rewrite of its land use code, Martin noted. Energy industry projects, such as for temporary housing at drilling sites, also have kept planning staff busy.Such challenges have made it hard to devote much staff time to historic preservation.”It’s priorities we’re looking at here. We’re not trying to pass the buck or make excuses. It’s just going to have to wait its turn,” Martin said.The same development that is making it hard for the county to work on historic preservation also can threaten what some want to preserve. Vawter said he and others were first motivated to look at a county historic preservation program after a landmark barn was torn down on the old Bair Chase property by prior owners.He also is interested in saving historic structures on the former Bershenyi Ranch property near Glenwood. The company trying to develop housing on that property has promised to protect historic buildings.Vawter and others aren’t proposing restrictions on what people do with historic properties.”We principally wanted something that would enable the county to have the authority to at least notify the public that there was an intention to destroy some historic property,” he said.That at least would provide an opportunity to see if something might be done to save such structures, he said.Vawter is coordinator of the Garfield County Historical Preservation Action Team, which consists of about 20 people primarily representing historical preservation groups in local communities.Vawter noted that the county hired a new planner, Christina Montalvo, who has experience in historic preservation in Florida.”We’ve worked with her and she’s great, and I know she’s trying to do things, but I think they’ve got her off on other things now,” Vawter said.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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