Who Wants a Historic Home, Really?
To the Editor,
Park Hill’s consideration of a new historic district comes after recent attempts, in other neighborhoods, to designate individual homes as demolition-proof historic landmarks. In Jefferson Park and West Highland, neighbors even pursued “hostile” historic designations, against the wishes of the homeowners. Both attempts failed, fortunately, at City Council.
A historic district may be a good thing if it brings tax credits and genuine incentives to willing, preservation-minded property owners. An unwelcome designation pursued by neighbors is, in my view, theft. But in either case, there is a question. Who will do the work of restoring old homes? My experience says, nearly no one.
As a broker and listing agent, I am perhaps predictable in such skepticism. Our current listing in the heart of Park Hill advertises a grand Victorian built in three phases starting in 1875. (At 5315 East 22nd Avenue, it sits outside of the proposed historic district boundaries.)
The Park Hill property is an opinion magnet. And support for its loving preservation has been nearly unanimous, with a consistent theme: Someone else should do it.
Yes, the interior is in rough shape, with plenty of peeling paint, obsolete fixtures, and an outdated, compartmentalized floor plan. Yet with its great bones and a gleaming new kitchen, the home is livable and move-in ready.
“Too much work,” several buyers’ agents have remarked after showing the property—mostly to millennial-age clients presumably with broad life interests ranging way beyond home improvement.
“Worried about costly renovations,” wrote one broker.
“The price seems high for the amount of work necessary.”
The price is negotiable. What’s not is the need for a lot of sweat and/or expense to restore elegance to this historic home.
In my observation, not one buyer in a hundred is emotionally and financially suited for a large-scale home rehab, historic or otherwise. “Restoration” is a more ambitious concept, and I’d say the suitability ratio may be one in a thousand.
With so much interest in occupying Denver’s historic neighborhoods, I’d wish for greater personal interest in creating them. Here’s hoping that fans of historic homes will put their efforts and money where their mouths are in 2016.
Tom LaRocque, Real estate broker, flip investor, and licensed general contractor
When A New House Goes Up Next Door
To the Editor,
I am a Park Hill neighbor and my house was damaged by a neighboring build. I took the contractor to small claims court to settle the damages to my home and won. I want to share my story to other neighbors so you know what you can do when you are faced with similar situations.
A house right by my house was demolished and a new build was put up. At first I was reticent to say anything about the process to the contractors and workers. What I learned is they are not looking out for you. Their #1 priority is their new build. They are not here to be friends or even be friendly. I should have spoken up and told them not to use my property as a lunch spot and to clean up their trash. My thought process was that I have to live next to the people who hired the contractor and I was trying to be neighborly and nice. Then my house was damaged and I learned quickly I needed to say something and protect my rights as an existing neighbor.
I was told by the builder that my issues were preexisting to the new construction. After a hearing in small claims court I learned I had rights and that the damages to my property WAS9+ caused by the building process. I was finally reimbursed for my property damage a year and a half after it happened.
My suggestions to homeowners about to be impacted by a new build are a few. One, before the process of the new build begins, have an engineer assessment of your home to establish the condition your house before the construction and then have the same engineer look at your house when the new build is done so they can see if there is any damage.
Two, during the build, speak up and ask for what you need – even if it is just clarification of what is happening and when. Share with the contractor any problems that arise with the workers – eg. noise, trash, working time violations etc. The workers and their heavy machinery are coming in and out of your neighborhood and they don’t care about your property. Speak up when there are issues to be addressed. I had to learn to be assertive and because I waited before speaking up I was not as effective as I could have been.
Three, take pictures and videos before, during and after. Talk with other neighbors and gather witnesses. That’s how I proved my case in court. Lastly, you know your house better than anyone else. Don’t let someone try to bully you to thinking otherwise and don’t let them keep putting you off. I should have taken action long before I did.
In retrospect the way to build community instead of negative feelings with a new build and subsequent new neighbors in an existing neighborhood is to communicate directly with the builders & owners at the time of concern. Hire a lawyer or use free legal advice for guidance and direction. If necessary go to court to cover the damages. Above all, get a PRIOR engineer assessment of your home and again AFTER to determine if there was any damage.
I love my community and I have lived here for years. Building community through new construction in an existing neighborhood is a process that involves communication with all parties involved.
Amy Sloan Thoman, Park Hill
Don’t Be A Silent Witness
Carol Bellamy, former Executive Director UNICEF, said, “When the lives and the rights of children are at stake, there must be no silent witnesses.”
Most of us agree kids need adults to be their voice when they cannot speak for themselves, and this is especially true of kids who are in Colorado’s Division of Youth Corrections.
No more research needs to be undertaken to show the often times irreversible effects of solitary confinement, especially on juveniles.
The U.S.’s long standing policy and practice of placing juveniles in solitary confinement in jails and prisons is well documented, as is its condemnation by Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and many other organizations. Solitary confinement of children began more than 100 years ago in the U.S. It picked up steam nationally in the late ‘80’s, and in Colorado in the ‘90s, after our “summer of violence.”
Extensive research confirms solitary confinement of children, whose brains are still developing, while not unusual, is cruel. Solitary wreaks profound neurological and psychological damage, including depression, hallucinations, panic attacks, cognitive deficits, obsessive thinking, paranoia, anxiety, and anger. Children held in isolation have limited human contact, are often denied meaningful mental health care, medical care, education, contact with family, even reading material, in a cell slightly larger than a king sized bed.
Recent investigations by newspapers and advocacy groups documented kids in Colorado’s Division of Youth Corrections have been held in seclusion for days, weeks and even months at a time. While policy reforms are slowly taking hold to eliminate the use of confinement on kids, those reforms require proper funding and staffing to implement.
Advocacy groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the Colorado Juvenile Defender Center, and the Legal Center for People with Disabilities, have all urged the Joint Budget Committee to fully fund the Division of Youth Corrections, to be in compliance with staffing standards required by federal law. Staffing levels are critical because the investigations found often times isolation is used as a way to “manage” DYC’s under-staffed facilities.
If you don’t want to be a silent witness, send an email today to our joint budget committee. Tell them to stop solitary confinement of kids in Colorado by fully staffing up CDYC facilities.
Here are the members of the committee:
• Representative Millie Hamner, Chairperson firstname.lastname@example.org
• Senator Kent Lambert, email@example.com
• Senator Kevin Grantham firstname.lastname@example.org
• Representative Bob Rankin email@example.com
• Senator Pat Steadman firstname.lastname@example.org
• Representative Dave Young email@example.com
Kathleen Hynes, Denver
Don’t Let City Destroy Fabric Of The ‘Hood
To the Editor,
You may or may not be aware the owners of 5315 Montview Blvd. are determined to divide and develop a portion of their lot to build a spec house, as detailed in the February issue of the Greater Park Hill News (read “Divide and Build Plan Heats Up, at greaterparkhill.org).
If you are not familiar with this house, I urge you to drive by and verify the entrance indeed faces Montview Boulevard.
My husband and I have been diligent in following the processes and communicating with many members of the community, members of the city planning department and our City Council representative, Chris Herndon. In January we participated in a mediation recommended by the city’s planning department. In attendance were the owners, two representatives from the Greater Park Hill Community board, a mediator retained by the city, a representative from the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation consortium of neighborhood groups, and City Planner Curt Upton.
At this meeting Mr. Upton, who has been assigned to this case, presented that the primary street of this house is actually on Glencoe Street – not Montview Boulevard – and therefore is subject to only a 10’ rear setback. On multiple levels this is a serious and blatant manipulation of the Zone Code and disregard for Parkway Regulations. The home is clearly front facing to Montview and subject to the Parkway Regulations, which notably trump the city’s zoning code. There are 35-foot front and side setbacks and, with no alley the rear setback is 20 feet.
Mr. Upton attempted to illustrate that the front is on Glencoe Street because of the oblong nature of the property along Glencoe Street. However, there is not even an entrance on that side of the house. If positioned for Glencoe Street, the west side would be subject to a block sensitive setback and the sides south (Montview Boulevard) and north would be only 10 feet. This is absurd!
Above and beyond this offensive display, was that the actual criteria the applicants are expected to address were not mentioned. The rezoning application states the owners cite how the proposed rezoning is consistent with the neighborhood’s plan and specific justifying circumstances. Mr. Upton in his presentation didn’t understand how dividing to develop a spec house for profit affected Park Hill’s characteristics.
The justifying characteristics are geographic or technical circumstances, for which this property does not qualify. For example, the existing zoning of the land was the result of an error or the land has changed to such a degree that it is in the public interest to encourage a redevelopment of the area.
The community needs to rally and explain the importance of the open space and what preserving a historic boulevard means. There are more than 21 properties that are 15,000 square feet along this boulevard. If they are scraped, it could triple the density along Montview. It would destroy the fabric of this community.
We implore residents of Park Hill to consider the effects of this type of spot zoning would mean to a historic boulevard and to all of Park Hill and Denver’s urban neighborhoods. There is clearly a fundamental opportunity for corruption in this process.
Please do not allow the city to continue to ignore the rights of its citizens! Tell Brad Buchanan, the city’s executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development, to enforce the Zone Code and Blueprint Denver. Contact City Council representatives and inform them of what you, as a resident want for the future of this city. Notify Mayor Michael Hancock that his planning department needs to stop navigating the code for developers.
Blair Taylor, Park Hill
Editor’s Note: Park Hill resident Blair Taylor and her husband own the home directly to the north of the 5315 E. Montview Boulevard property. Councilman Chris Herndon, who represents Park Hill, can be contacted at 720-337-8888 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mayor Michael Hancock’s office number is 720-865-9000. City Planning Director Brad Buchanan can be reached at email@example.com or at 720-865-2915. Senior City Planner Curt Upton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you drive or walk by the house, please do not trespass. Respect the privacy of the owners.
We love your letters, and give preference to those that address an issue that has been covered in the newspaper, or a topic that is Park Hill or Denver-specific. Join the conversation and make your voices heard. Send letters to email@example.com, and include your full name, and the neighborhood in which you live. Deadlines are the 15th of each month, for the following month’s issue.