Hostile historic designation shot down by Denver City Council.
The council voted 7-4 to not approve the hostile historic designation of home in Jefferson Park.
Council members said the system that allows hostile designations is broken.
In a very long and very emotional hearing, the Denver City Council voted 7-4 last Monday to not declare a Queen Ann-style home in Jefferson Park as historic.
The well-publicized battle for a home at 2849 W. 23rd Ave., pitted preservationists against property rights advocates, neighbors against neighbors.
Several council members said that these so-called “hostile” designations represent a process that is broken and needs to be fixed.
“What I want to say is that no one wants to be in this situation, especially me,” said Councilman Rafael Espinoza, a key player in the situation, as he personally signed the application for the historic designation, against the wishes of one of his constituents.
One person in Jefferson Park, tossed out the idea of moving the house to a nearby parcel that he owns, and was called a “hero” by council president Albus Brooks for trying to create a “win-win” for both sides.
The owner of the home, Judith Battista, appeared to be barely holding back tears, as the first of more than three dozen speakers at a hearing that lasted almost four hours.
Battista, a single-woman who works two jobs and cannot afford what easily could be six-figure repairs on her purple-painted home, wants to sell the house to the highest bidder.
But the “hostile” historic designation would not allow that, she argued.
“The hostile historic designation as been anything but kind to me,” she said.
“My house is my nest egg and my only retirement,” Batista said.
She said she has felt “intimidated, scared and bullied,” by Espinoza. Espinoza was the first councilman to sign an application for the historic designation without the consent of the homeowner, since that has been allowed in 2012.
The house had been the childhood home of the home-grown architects of Burnham and Merrill Hoyt, both of whom graduated from North High School.
Councilman Kevin Flynn, however, said they are remembered for their architectural treasures, including the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Cherokee Castle, the original central Denver Public Library building, the Park Hill Library and the Denver Press Club, not the home where they were raised. He noted the city didn’t even know that was their childhood home until the application was filed in October.
Councilwoman Kendra Black said listening to members of the community at the hearing, many of them are very frustrated with the high density development.
“It is said,” she said, with a lot of “new, ugly buildings,” being constructed.
However, she said there needs to be a “very high bar,” when there is a hostile historic designation.
This home did not rise to the level of saving the Molly Brown House or the Brown Palace, she said.
Councilman Mary Beth Susman said if three strangers told started the process to designate her 1930’s era home as a landmark, against her wishes, it would be a problem.
And then, if she was required to maintain her house at a cost that exceeded the value of the home, “in car language that is called a total,” Susman said.
It was revealed during the meeting that prominent developer Charlie Woolley was interested in preserving the house and developing an adjoining site, although Batista’s Realtor said he did not receive a written or an oral offer from anyone.
Minutes before midnight, council members voting against the historic designation were Flynn, Black, Susman, Paul Kashmann, Jolon Clark, Stacie Gilmore and Brooks.
Voting in favor were Espinoza, Paul D. Lopez and Deborah “Debbie” Ortega
Espinoza said a week ago that he didn’t think the motion would pass.
The vote was another case of the city failing Jefferson Park by not protecting one of the last prominent, Victorian-era homes in the neighborhood from the wrecking ball and greedy developers, he said.
Many in the audience, immediately following the vote, had quite another reaction.
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