It didn’t go out with a bang, but not a whimper, either. It’s about preservation.

Toms Diner Screen Shot 2019-07-23 at 7.54.24 PM

Last night, Denver City Council approved an updated landmark ordinance more than a year in the making.

A task force of 16 people began discussing changes and updates to an ordinance that  was put in place in 1967 and designed to protect Denver’s best buildings. The first task force meeting was in March 2018, and the final one was in March 2019. After that, there were presentations to citizens, and then there was a pause to avoid meetings with the already overload of municipal election overload.

The approval was 12-0. At last week’s council meeting, District 4 Representative Kendra Black noted that she was going to be out of town on Sept. 30. Black has been pushing for a supermajority required of council votes when an owner-opposed application comes before council.  That didn’t fly because she could not round up the votes.

Black said: “Council has been put in the very uncomfortable position of having to preside over some pretty awful public hearings when some owners were having to defend their property rights. Tom’s Diner brought an issue to the forefront for a lot of residents. I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents and residents who were shocked to learn that Mr. Messina’s plans for his property and his future could be undermined by strangers.” (As of the taped video of the Sept. 23 city council meeting, this is the full quote.)

The supermajority issue flitted around during the meeting last night. District 5 representative Amanda Sawyer noted right before the vote that on a non-scientific survey she sent out to constituents, 57% wanted a supermajority of 9-6 rather than the usual majority.

The update includes a change in the traditional categories, but not the criteria. That’s part of the change in a major addition: Culture. For all those buildings that were part of a movement or that helped define a diverse neighborhood, it’s time to think about those. As for a pause, that’s another very helpful element. For those owner-opposed applications, there is more time for the community (and the owner and the applicants) to talk things through rather than rush to justice.

But at the end of the day, we’ll see how it goes. I decided to go ahead and post the much-used photo of Tom’s Diner, which was part of the discussion for weeks for preservation for the diner and a few other choice buildings – but owner-opposed. Apparently, there are still discussions going on. It was a hot and occasionally angry summer.

The next issue at last night’s meeting was what to do about that tiny piece of land that surfaced as an issue a couple of months ago. A hotel wants the city to vacate the land – all of 6,000-or-so square feet — so it can build on it. But at a meeting in August, the issue was postponed so community and owner could talk.

The same thing happened last night, and the issue will return on Oct. 28 at city council. The vote was 7 to 5. The 7 were concerned about the confusion dealing with a registered neighborhood organization that seemed to be in disagreement with its board; the 5 noted that some council members were paying attention only to those at the public hearing, while not being in tune with comments from others not at the hearing. The 5 wanted to move this along, with a no. Intriguing.

Links below deal with an updated story in today’s Denverite, with good background; a link to the entire Denver City Council meeting last night, and a link to the city’s webpage listing buildings whose owners want to demolish them (more buildings have appeared). Finally, there’s a link to a Denver Post story about the big issue last night: selling tobacco products to those under the age of 21 is now banned, and discussion about where those stores could be located.

It won’t get harder to label a building historic when its owner disagrees, but new rules aim to curb quarrels


2 Replies to “It didn’t go out with a bang, but not a whimper, either. It’s about preservation.”

  1. Thank you Mary. This needs so much more time and broad community conversation. In a rapidly gentrifying & growing city,.
    risks are big.
    Do you have a view of the proposed view plane changes?


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