Select Page

Ballots are being mailed out today for the upcoming election of Fort Collins City Council members and mayor (and two ballot issues). As a local historian who cares about the preservation of our history, I have frequently advocated for historic preservation in northern Colorado, and especially in Fort Collins where I live. There are several issues to consider when voting, but if you also value historic preservation, I’d encourage you to read through the following candidate questions and answers that have been compiled by Protect Our Old Town Homes (POOTH). What follows is copied with permission from their website.

Candidates’ Thoughts on Historic Preservation

A subcommittee of Protect Our Old Town Homes sent out the following questions to the City Council candidates for this year’s election. What follows is a summary of the evaluation of candidates’ answers by POOTH (which is a grassroots neighborhood movement and not a 501(c)3) as well as the questions that were presented with the answers directly cut and pasted from the candidates responses. Candidates’ answers will be listed first by district, then in alphabetical order.

We appreciate the candidates who took time to answer the questions and returned their surveys. We encourage voters who support preservation of Fort Collins historical buildings to consider these scores when voting.

Protect Our Old Town Homes Evaluation Summary

We used a simple scoring system to rate each answer to gauge candidate’s support or opposition to the proposed historic preservation policies and then totaled the scores for an overall rating. The scores given were: +1 = Strongly Supports, O = Conditional Support, or -1 = No Support/Neutral. A total score of 5-6 indicates Strong Support, 3-4 Some Support, and 1-2 indicates No Support/Neutral. The total scores on the 6 questions follows:

Mayor
Mike Pruznick 0 – No Response
Wade Troxell 0 – No Response
District 1
Susan Gutowsky 6
Glenn Haas 4
Joe Somodi 5
District 2
Adam Eggleston 1
Susan Holmes 0 – No Response
Noah Hutchison 2
Julie Pignataro 4
District 4
Kirstin Stephens 6
District 6
Lori Brunswig 6
Emily Gorgol 6
Fred Kirsch 5

 

Questions & Answers

Question 1: Impacts of Historic Preservation

Fort Collins has had a historic preservation ordinance since 1968 that has helped restore and reuse our most iconic historic buildings including: the Northern and the Linden Hotels, the Avery Building (NE corner  Mountain and College) and the Old Post Office at Oak Street Plaza. However, many of our other historic buildings have not been landmarked and could be at risk for demolition or overly modern alterations. These buildings include the Odd Fellows building (Rio Grande restaurant) and Park View Apartments (across from the old Carnegie building at Library Park), among others.

What impacts do you think historic preservation has had upon Fort Collins since its preservation program first started? 

District 1

Susan Gutowsky: Historic preservation helps our community to celebrate the distinctive attributes that help define Fort Collins to its residents, neighbors, and visitors.  Our historic buildings give us visible reminders of our communities long history and the people who have preserved them.  I think it gives people a sense of time, place and context for what makes this community special.

Glenn Haas: The impacts, or better yet, the benefits of historic preservation are well chronicled in the links you have above.  For me it really comes down to being inspired, proud, and intrigued “if the walls could talk.”  It so adds charm and value to the community, business, redevelopment prospects, tourism, employment, and economic development.  It certainly helps to mitigate urban sprawl, urban blight, crime, and homelessness.  It is a win=win for community.

Joe Somodi: The cataloging & protection of Fort Collins history and historical features has contributed extensively to the City’s richness. The designation of the historic districts and landmarks (1800’s or so) in the city has allowed preservation of heritage and cultural amenities. However, with growth, the need for affordable, accessible housing, we need to make sure that we also continue to value and protect our heritage as a city.

District 2

Adam Eggleston: I believe historic preservation is one of the key factors that gives Fort Collins its charm. I believe that historic preservation program has done a fantastic job to maintain the historic character of Old Town and I think that has only made for Collins better. There’s a reason why Old Town is called the heart of Fort Collins.

Susan Holmes: No response.

Noah Hutchinson: I believe it has helped preserve and ensure critical components of Fort Collins history.  In addition, as the research highlights, there have been economic benefits to the community as well.

Julie Pignataro: As a Fort Collins resident, the impacts that historic preservation has had on me specifically is that it has helped keep some of the small town charm accessible as we have grown into a city.

District 4

Kristin Stephens: I think historic preservation has helped our city retain its charm, and has made Fort Collins a desirable place to live and visit. I think preserving our downtown has helped with our economic health.

District 6

Lori Brunswig: Keeping our history alive through the protection of historical buildings is critical. Without it, due to the fact that some people don’t care or see value in saving buildings that are old, we could lose the incredible character and interest they bring to the City. Out with the old and in with the new mentality is careless and unfortunate. We need to be proactive and determined in our work to protect our history.

Emily Gorgol: As someone born and raised in Fort Collins, I appreciate the work that has been done over the years to preserve our cherished history. Historic preservation has immeasurable benefits from an educational, environmental, and cultural perspective, and I’m glad that city leaders had the forethought to establish historic preservation as a policy more than 50 years ago.

Fred Kirsch: Historic preservation is a vital part of our character and charm. Just look at what happened in the 1970s and 80s. Historic preservation prevents us from sacrificing history to trends. I’m glad we got Old Town back! Historic preservation helps us move into the future with a sense of place.

Mayor

Wade Troxell: No response.

Mike Pruznick: No response.

Question 2: Changes in Residential Old Town Neighborhoods

In recent years, Old Town neighborhoods have seen an increasing number of our older small houses, originally built for middle class families, scraped off and replaced with substantially larger houses that tower over their neighbors’ homes and are out of character with the styles of surrounding houses.

As a member of city council, would you support stronger design standards in the City’s Land Use Code that would help retain the charming character of these Old Town neighborhoods?

District 1

Susan Gutowsky: Yes, many cities in America have “townsite restrictions” to protect and make sure that homes continue to reflect the historic fabric of a community.  Some townsite restrictions might include: minimum lot sizes, maximum residential densities, minimum and maximum setbacks from streets and alleys, landscaping requirements, mature tree requirements, etc. One of my main concerns is solar access.  I am in favor of accelerating the climate action plan.  With that in mind, I think it is important to remember that eventually the goal is to transition to 100% renewable power.  While some people might choose to access renewables through city utilities, some people would like to have roof top solar, especially as battery technology advances become more affordable.  I think it only makes sense to restrict designs to not only maintain the look and feel of historic neighborhoods, but protect the individual property rights of residents to access roof top solar should they choose to.

Glenn Haas: Yes, deconstruction is a laudable goal that we should strive for.  I would support stronger design standards to retain the charming character of Old Town neighborhoods as long as there was a “common sense variance” clause to deviate from the standards when there would be clear and compelling economic, social, and/or environmental reasons.

Joe Somodi: Many of the Old Town neighborhoods have been impacted by development – with many older smaller homes being replaced by larger single-family homes or in some instances larger developments. I believe that we need to infill and replacing a single-family house with another single-family house that’s 3 times larger does nothing to increase density in the city.

I am willing to look at stronger design standards as an option in the City’s efforts for maintaining our heritage but I am also interested in addressing the issue of design in concert with the other serious issues facing the city as it develops – e.g. Sprawl as it causes similar problems of loss of heritage as well as loss of wildlife habitat, increased levels of pollution and congestion from traffic, etc.

District 2

Adam Eggleston: No, I believe the charm of Old Town is the lack of building design standards. There are over 100 years of different designs and standards. I think by overly regulation could lead to an Old Town HOA, that would have more negative impacts on the character of Old Town. I look forward to seeing all the different designs, sizes, and charm Old Town in 50 years with the generational changes that will happen naturally.

Susan Holmes: No response.

Noah Hutchinson: Yes, but there’s always a question of balance in these situations and not a one size fits all approach.

Julie Pignataro: If stronger design standards are what the community is asking for in certain areas, then yes, I would support it. I would not make a decision of this nature without significant citizen input.

District 4

Kristin Stephens: I would support helping to retain smaller homes in our community. I know we already have design standards in place, so I would want to work with experts to see how these standards could be improved.

District 6

Lori Brunswig: If I am elected, I will fight to preserve historically significant houses and other landmarks around the City. I’m seeing houses that are not compatible with the existing Old Town character being built and I think this is a shame. Obviously, the current standards are not strong enough to keep this from happening so I will work to tighten the standards. Also, I’m concerned that newer, larger homes shade the houses next to them making solar panels and growing a garden impossible for existing residences.

Emily Gorgol: It is pretty clear that there are a number of newer Old Town homes that appear to be incompatible with the historic neighborhoods. I would need to do more research about the design standards and changes over the years, but I’m open to considering strengthening standards and/or closing loopholes to enhance historic preservation.

Fred Kirsch: Yes! If you want to build a monster house go to the monster house part of town.

Mayor

Wade Troxell: No response.

Mike Pruznick: No response.

Question 3: Preservation and the Climate Action Plan

Fort Collins has embarked on an ambitious Climate Action Plan. According to a recent research report entitled “The Greenest Building: Quantifying the Environmental Value of Building Reuse”: “building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process.”  Retrofitting and restoring older buildings helps to reduce our carbon footprint by reusing materials rather than requiring the harvesting, processing, and transportation of new materials for the construction of new buildings.

Would you support a program that would incentivize the retrofitting and reuse of older buildings as a more sustainable approach to help meet our Climate Action Plan goals?

District 1

Susan Gutowsky: Yes.

Glenn Haas: I support efforts to incentivize the retrofitting and repurposing of older, and not so old, buildings to help meet the climate action goals and a number of other needs/goals when the opportunity is at hand—–affordable housing, social services, recreation or arts center, and tourism enhancement.

Joe Somodi: Generally, yes, I am very supportive of retrofitting of existing homes (the City has some good programs e.g. energy audits) and reusing older buildings as doing so can have a multi-faceted benefit to the community as we address continued growth. The retrofitting programs in some instances could be better advertised/marketed so all residents understand the benefits – not just to their energy bills but the environment as well. The City must also make sure that as programs are rolled out, lower income and middle-income families are incentivized to participate.

District 2

Adam Eggleston: Yes, I would like to see more incentives to help older buildings be up to date with the most energy efficiency standards. I think having a program that may run parallel with the new building energy scoring program to help building owners find ways to become more energy efficient and save money on their utilities. We should work on a volunteer-based or incentives programs to find ways to help building owners with the costs of making old building more efficiency.

Susan Holmes: No response.

Noah Hutchinson: Yes, as outlined in my decision-making philosophy, I support a balanced economic and environmental approach that supports the quality of life of every person.

Julie Pignataro: Absolutely!!!

District 4

Kristin Stephens: I support efforts that will help us achieve our Climate Action goals. I am certainly interested in exploring this as an idea to help with our Zero Waste Vision.

District 6

Lori Brunswig: Yes, capturing as much as possible from older building and using them in retrofits means new products aren’t required to replace what has been discarded. New products require sometimes large amounts of energy to create and transport and this harms our environment at home and globally. If this require incentives to do, then I am for it.

Emily Gorgol: I support the Climate Action Plan and therefore certainly would be open to supporting efforts to encourage more sustainable approaches like retrofitting and reuse. I’d love to hear more about the specifics of such a program or programs.

Fred Kirsch: Absolutely! However, I have heard that historic preservation has stood in the way of retrofits. We need to address this.

Mayor

Wade Troxell: No response. Mike Pruznick: No response.

Question 4: Deconstruction vs. Demolition

The City of Portland Oregon now requires deconstruction as a method for demolition of all buildings over 100 years old. Deconstruction is a process that entails removing reusable building materials and components such as brick, stone, lumber, hardware, flooring, fixtures, etc. in a non-destructive manner for reuse.  This policy discourages demolition because of the added cost to deconstruct and encourages building owners to rethink how an existing building can be restored and upgraded for new uses.  If deconstruction were required by the city, the recycling of building materials would also help the City meet its landfill waste reduction goals.

Would you support a mandatory deconstruction policy for buildings 100 years old and older in Fort Collins?

District 1

Susan Gutowsky: Yes.

Glenn Haas: I would support a mandatory deconstruction policy for building 100 years old and older as long as there was a “common sense variance” clause to not deconstruct when there would be clear and compelling  economic, social, and/or environmental reasons.  Deconstruction is a laudable goal that we should strive for.

Joe Somodi: The Deconstruction trend is growing and there are many reasons why I would consider supporting formalizing deconstruction efforts in Fort Collins beyond the obvious environmental benefits. This issue is worthy of deeper engagement by the City and I would work with City staff to determine how deconstruction could work here – either formalized as Portland and Milwaukee have done or with incentives as Baltimore has done. The opportunities around deconstruction including building small businesses, providing job opportunities and keeping valuable materials out of our landfills is something I support fully. Fort Collins has dabbled in the deconstruction movement (2011 deconstruction of the Creamery) but could do more as a city to incentivize & facilitate reuse and recycling of building materials.

District 2

Adam Eggleston: I am not a fan of mandatory regulations. I would be more open to programs that will help or assist with the costs to deconstruct Old buildings in a way that is more environmentally friendly and reusable. I feel that by using incentives rather than regulations you get better buying, especially in Fort Collins where most individuals and companies are fairly environmentally conscious and look for ways to be better stewards of our community.

Susan Holmes: No response.

Noah Hutchinson: I would support this if the public wanted this as a new policy.  Again, it comes back to a balanced economic and environmental approach.  I don’t believe that this is necessary but it could obviously be beneficial.

Julie Pignataro: Again, Absolutely! What many people don’t know about the term “reduce, reuse, recycle” is that those are also in order of preference, so any time we can reuse something, the better.

District 4

Kristin Stephens: I would likely support this, but would need more details. Again, this seems to be in line with our Zero Waste Vision.

District 6

Lori Brunswig: I absolutely support a mandatory deconstruction policy.

Emily Gorgol: As a resident of Portland, OR for over 5 years I am familiar with the practice. The policy created an opportunity to reduce waste as well as offer affordable building materials for reuse. I think we could look at a similar policy but should keep in mind specific case-by-case variables to ensure that the deconstruction and materials for reuse are safe, healthy, energy-efficient, and economical for all residents.

Fred Kirsch: I would support mandatory deconstruction as a method of demolition for any building unless it can be proven that the materials have no economic value. I think we have an economic opportunity to turn “waste” streams into revenue streams and building materials are a part of that.

Mayor

Wade Troxell: No response.

Mike Pruznick: No response.

Question 5: Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation

The 2017 Update to Preservation for a Changing Colorado report found that the value of properties within the boundaries of the Old Town Historic District (as measured by the county assessor) increased at a much greater rate than in the nearby comparison area since the district was designated in 1979.  (See PreservationBenefitsColorado Page 24 of the 2017 Report Update for economic benefits to Fort Collins)

‘Would you support including historic preservation (landmarking buildings and designating local historic districts) as a strategy in the City’s economic policy plan?

District 1

Susan Gutowsky: Yes.

Glenn Haas: Of course, historic preservations is very much an economic development tool and should be a tool in the economic policy plan.

Joe Somodi: The 2017 Update to Preservation for a Changing Colorado report has compelling cases for historic preservation. I believe that historic preservation is an important component of Fort Collins and should continue to be considered as part of the overall strategy in the City’s economic planning and policy processes. I plan to work closely with the community members, the City’s Historic Preservation Department and the Landmark Preservation Commission to better understand the most effective ways of ensuring inclusion.

District 2

Adam Eggleston: I think the city does actually use Old Town within its economic forecasting. I think the charm of Old Town actually helps bring in tourism dollars which helps the overall City. So as long as the city doesn’t overstep on the owners of the properties to a degree which they become less valuable based on restrictions of use, then yes I think the city should use the that is our preservation buildings and the economic plan.

Susan Holmes: No response.

Noah Hutchinson: Yes, if it truly is economically beneficial as the data presented suggests, then it makes sense to support this as an added piece of our policy plan scope.

Julie Pignataro: I would need much further study on this subject to make a decision; at first glance adding a further designation would only make home ownership for many that much more out of reach as well as compromise further diversity in the historic areas of our city.

District 4

Kristin Stephens: I think by preserving buildings in our community, we are increasing our economic health. I believe this can be clearly demonstrated in the Old Town area. I think this is something we can add to our economic health plan. I just visited Palm Springs, and their mid-Century modern architecture is a real boon to tourism, and retail sales there.

District 6

Lori Brunswig: Yes, a policy to protect historic buildings is very much an economic issue. Many people care about seeing historical landmarks and enjoy them enough to visit or live in cities that value its history. I’m very concerned we are losing housing that serve people who need lower cost housing like mobile home parks. Many people may have a negative view of these areas but they are an important part of our history that cannot be replaced with anything else and may need a special district to protect them, also.

Emily Gorgol: Yes.

Fred Kirsch: I support historic preservation but I’m not sure it belongs in the City’s economic policy plan. That increase in property values is a factor that has led to the scrape and builds from question 2. Certain property-owners need relief from tax increases that come with increased value. Increased value makes it more difficult for lower income folks to keep the small houses and invites more investors and wealthy residents who want bigger homes.

Mayor

Wade Troxell: No response.

Mike Pruznick: No response.

Question 6: Mid-Century Modern… Worth Saving?

In the 1960s, when preservation first got underway in earnest in Colorado, historic buildings were those that were built in the 1910s or earlier (50 years old and older).  As time has passed, some buildings that were new during the mid-century (1950s/60s) are now becoming historic in their own right, such as the houses in the Sheeley Addition, University Acres, and Indian Hills.

What value do you see in preserving mid-century Modern buildings?

District 1

Susan Gutowsky: Mid-century modern homes have open floor plans, lots of light and combined living, dining, kitchen and living spaces and many times in one floor.  This design style is something that the younger generation looks for in homes or tries to emulate in remodels.  It is also a style that tends to lend itself to aging in place.  I was recently able to see the move “The Greenest Building,” which introduced to me the concept of embodied energy.  That really opened my eyes to the idea that the greenest building is the one that is already built.  So, there is value in preserving mid-century modern homes not only because they are designed in such a way that it meets a family’s needs at every stage in life, but also because we do not want to waste resources.  Getting to carbon neutral earlier than the planed 2050 will require aggressive action on many fronts.

Glenn Haas: I don’t see historic preservation starting on the 1st day of the 100th anniversary of a building.  HP can start at any time and any age—-by starting earlier we can take advantage of willing donors or property owners, save money, put in place historic preservation easements which would incentivize willing owners, add predictability to area residents and businesses, encourage investment, etc.  We should take advantage of the opportunity to preserve and designate future historic properties, and not wait till when the time is not right or the situation is more contentious or costly.

Joe Somodi: There are many historic areas in District 1 – including a large number of mid-century homes such as the Highlander development. Mid-century buildings are becoming historic in their own right and I do see great value in preserving them as part of the overall history and heritage of the City.

District 2

Adam Eggleston: It all depends on the house in which we are discussing. I believe the number is around 14,000 homes are coming up on being 50 years old and the majority of those homes do not have any historical references or substantial meeting to the community. So I would be interested in preserving homes that are either uniquely designed for the period or has historical relevance to the city. As was discussed at a recent city council meeting about the dealership on the corner of Drake and College. Just because the building is 50 years old doesn’t make it historic just old in some cases.

Susan Holmes: No response.

Noah Hutchinson: I see value in preserving them if it cost be done in a common sense and cost-effective way.  Practically, we could enjoy one of these buildings now and for sure our children could in the years ahead.

Julie Pignataro: I see value in preserving the mid-century structures because that is a time period just before the real boom of Fort Collins took off in the 60s and 70s. Again (with reference to question #5), if by preserving some of these buildings we are putting homeownership out of reach – or worse, pricing people out of their own homes – then the consequences of preservation and/or historic landmark distinctions need to be considered.

District 4

Kristin Stephens: I think there is great value in preserving mid-century Modern buildings. As I said in my previous answer, Palm Springs has built a thriving tourist industry around their mid-century architecture.

District 6

Lori Brunswig:These older homes are built well and many are very unique which makes them special and worth protecting.

Emily Gorgol: I believe that there are a number of homes from this era that warrant consideration, designation, and preservation. I’m not an expert in this area, so I would defer to those who are well versed in historic preservation and city code to ensure that we protect historic homes from any era.

Fred Kirsch: The same value as preserving older buildings. Age is not the only factor, nor should it be the primary factor in building preservation.

Mayor

Wade Troxell: No response.

Mike Pruznick: No response.

%d bloggers like this: