Board’s Decision on Opt Outs Forces ChangeBy Sandy Barnes
Expressing sadness over the Town Board decision on Feb. 10 allowing five downtown properties to be excluded from the historic district, Chairman Sue Brungardt has resigned from the Historic Preservation Commission. A Berthoud native whose family has lived here since 1905, Brungardt has served on the Historic Preservation Commission for the past seven years.
Brungardt said she fears that permitting property owners to opt out of the downtown historic district created last September will nullify its designation. While working with the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation of the Colorado Historical Society, Brungardt said the Berthoud commission received consistent advice that all properties needed to be in the district for it to be viable. “There are no opt outs,” she said.
When asked his opinion on the issue, Dan Corson of the Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation said it is unclear at this time whether allowing the exclusions will negatively affect the Town’s district. “It depends on the definition of the historic district as determined by the ordinance,” he said. Corson explained that he had acted in an advisory capacity to the town commission since its formation. “Part of my job is to educate,” he said.
Along with her dismay over releasing the properties of Bruce Fickel, Charles and Michelle Johnson and Mark and Susan Wojciechowski from the district, Brungardt also questioned the propriety of Fickel’s participation in the historic commission because of his role as Town Attorney.
In April 2008, Brungardt said she asked Town Administrator Jim White for another attorney to advise the historic commission regarding legal matters, and was told there was no funding to hire someone else. For the appeals process, the Town did hire attorneys David Bell and Ian McCargar to represent the Town and the historic commission respectively.
During the two-part hearing on the appeals, some of the trustees questioned the manner in which the ordinance was written and suggested it needed revision.
While Brungardt was testifying on Feb. 10, Trustee John Bauer asked her, “Why didn’t you ask Mr. Fickel to change the ordinance?”
“It started to feel like a conflict of interest,” Brungardt replied.
During his statements, Fickel took issue with a companion ordinance for the historic district, which gives directives on how renovations can be made to properties in it. “It creates a very significant problem for property owners,” he said. Fickel also said he didn’t receive proper notification from the historic commission concerning the designation of his three properties on Mountain Avenue, which had undergone extensive updates in recent years. “The only thing historic is the brick façade,” he said.
Fickel also remarked after the hearing that he did not think that permitting five properties to be excluded from the historic district would negate it.
However, Brungardt later said she felt Fickel did have adequate notice with both the canvassing the commission did and public announcements of meetings that appeared in the newspaper. She also testified that Fickel’s properties did have historical significance as they are the sites of former cafes and offices for the Berthoud Bulletin newspaper. “There’s been a lot of history there,” she said.
Another area of contention regarding the exclusions from the historic district was whether property owners would experience economic hardship. Brungardt maintains that none of the properties are subject to financial hardship, or have safety issues — another criterion for possible exclusion in the ordinance. She also said that by opting out of the historic district, property owners will not be eligible for tax credits for renovations they might make.
<p><span style=”font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: times new roman,times;”>This Mountain Avenue building is owned by Town Attorney Bruce Fickel, who appealed the Historic Preservation Commission’s decision to be included in the downtown historic district. </span></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: times new roman,times;”>This building on Massachusetts Avenue, owned by Charles and Michelle Johnson, has original cornice detail. It also is now excluded from the downtown historic district.</span></span></p>
<p><span style=”font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: times new roman,times;”>The Jellyfish House on Third Street, owned by Mark and Susan Wojciechowski, is an original structure brought from a nearby valley to Berthoud in earlier times. The Board of Trustees voted on Feb. 10 to exclude it from the downtown historic district.</span></span></p>