A friend shared a brochure on historic preservation with me yesterday. It was put out by the Bellvue Historic Foundation and it included a section entitled “What Historic Designation DOESN’T Mean to Me.” There’s so much misinformation out there on what historic designation does and does not mean, that this particularly fascinated me. I thought the flyer did a great job of summing up what some of these misconceptions are and addressing them.

I thought I’d reshare three points from the flyer that I thought might be particularly helpful for people to know.

It DOES NOT restrict in any way, shape, or form what the property owner can do to and with their property, buildings, resources, etc.

I think this is the biggest misconception out there. People fear that getting a landmark designation on their properties means they won’t be able to open a window or set out a flower pot without having some government agent coming down to give their approval. There is an additional step that property owners will want to take before making changes, and that’s checking in with the state preservation planners to get advice and feedback on proposed changes. The advantage to doing this is that you can learn what changes can be made that will not only still maintain the landmark designation on the property, but that also might be covered with state tax rebates. But if you really, really want to do something that they don’t like, you’re still able to do it. It just won’t receive tax benefits and might result in losing your historic designation. But the decision regarding what you do on your property is entirely up to you.

I should add that you still have to meet any local building codes or requirements. But in terms of preserving the historic integrity of your property, that’s not the government’s call. That’s yours. You’re the one that chooses to get it designated. So it’s up to you whether you choose to have that designation rescinded.

It DOES NOT require you to restore, maintain, or open your historic site to the public. In other words, you can tear down a historic building and/or build another structure on your property with the only restrictions being from Larimer County codes.

I had never before thought about the fact that folks might think being landmarked would mean having to show off your historic property, like you now live in a museum that needs to be opened for public viewing. So I found this tidbit particularly interesting.

The upcoming survey will result in NO changes whatsoever to your property rights, property taxes, or to government regulation of your property. You will remain free to do whatever you like with your buildings and property. You will also NOT be required to restore or maintain your buildings, nor will you be required to open your property to the public.

A survey is something that is done prior to a property being designated. Many, many properties have been surveyed in Larimer County that have never been designated. And in fact, there are several that have been surveyed and then demolished. The advantage of having the survey done, however, is that then the historic archives have a document that shows all exterior views (and sometimes interior as well) of the historic property, that describes the construction, architecture, and detailing, and that gives a brief history of the people that lived on or used the property. In other words, despite the fact that the historic artifact is being destroyed, the information that was embodied by that artifact is retained, at least in some form, for future historians, relatives, and others to access.

 


 

There are some differences between Federal or State historic landmark designations and local Fort Collins designation. Within the city, you can demolish a historically eligible property that you own, but you can’t demolish a historically landmarked property unless the structure is an imminent danger to human life (as in the case of the so called Button House on the 700 block of Remington Street.)

But on the flip side, if you own a landmarked property within the city limits, there are also some additional financial incentives that you can take advantage of.

And while you can apply for State or Federal designation even if you live inside the city limits. You can’t apply for city designation if you live outside the city limits. So where your property is located can affect which designations you’re eligible for. State and National designations are harder to get (in my opinion, at least) than local because your property has to be of state or national importance. There are some buildings that we might think of as an integral part of our local history, but they don’t mean as much in the larger scheme of state or national history.

If you’re unsure what the financial incentives are to historic landmarking, you might want to check out this old Forgotten Fort Collins post: Historic Preservation – Diving into the Financial Incentives.