Elizabeth Milias: Historical Hysteria and the End of an Era


As The Red Ant marks 13 years of covering up shenanigans, subsidies, scandals, secrecy and scofflaws in the political realm of Aspen, the 312 W. Hyman saga comes to a quiet end. The earliest subject in my coverage of the dictatorial and historic city of Aspen hysteria and blatant tax mismanagement features a modest 1,536 square foot prefabricated chalet-style “kit” home built on land. of 6,000 square feet in the West End.

From 1954 to 1956, Herman Birlauf and his daughter Geneviève worked to assemble the house in kit form on land purchased for $ 500. It was then sold to Jordie Gerberg, a longtime resident, who lived in the house for over 20 years. Following a city-wide effort in 2000 to formally identify historic structures, Gerberg’s house was deemed to be of no historical significance and officially written off. At the time, he obtained a demolition permit, but chose not to scrape the property, but instead to perform updates by removing some of the fake junk and other exterior decorations.

In 2006, when Gerberg was planning to sell the property, the bureaucratic excesses and rumors of the prefabricated house’s imminent demise were renewed. Enter Amy Simon, now city planning director but at the time responsible for the historic preservation of the city. Home-obsessed Simon and HPC quickly worked to historically designate the property despite the owner’s objection and despite its unqualified assessment by the National Registry and its own “final” decision dating back to 2000. When this effort failed to Accurately in a 3-2 decision, Simon, fearless in his quest to forever protect the “novelty building of the modern movement” from the wrecking ball and to satisfy his personal agenda, surrendered to a sympathetic city council made up of Historical fanatics of the day and managed to convince the city to buy the house with the housing development money, designate it as historic and build additional housing on the spot.

Following the town’s damaging interference with Gerberg’s real estate deal that killed him, and the subsequent decision to buy the house from him, the town’s plans to develop several subsidized housing units on the lot quickly came to be. been thwarted by its own land use code. No one in town had bothered to reconcile Simon’s plans with what was actually possible. Since 2007, the house has been a non-productive rental property. Rented initially to Gerberg and then to a series of qualified tenants by APCHA, the chalet also sat vacant for years, but currently houses the Deputy Managing Director.

This landmark fraud was perpetrated against the public of Aspen to the tune of $ 3.5 million in 2007 when city council determined that Birlauf’s kit home “sort of represented a trend that made a significant contribution to the community. ‘local history’ and that ‘its physical design embodies the distinctive character of a type, period or method of construction, or represents the technical or aesthetic achievements of a designer, craftsman or ‘a recognized design philosophy, considered important’, while he has done absolutely nothing like this Not even close. The Birlaufs, no doubt good people and good neighbors, were only witnesses to the start of the ski industry in Aspen and never been a part of it. And when it comes to its distinctive design and construction, 312 W. Hyman is just a pre-made kit from the 1950s, which can still be purchased today and assembled with basic tools. A quick Google search for “kit cottage homes” yields many identical models, including the Deercroft from Modular Homeowners, Timberlake from Apex Homes, and even one on Ebay for $ 45,000. The house is not and has never been historic.

Last week, the city closed the sale of 312 W. Hyman for $ 3.96 million. When city council approved the sale, it was noted that the “profit” of nearly half a million dollars would be added to the housing fund. This is really how these people think. The reality is that, considering both rental income and expenses, the property has brought the city a return on investment of 14%, which is only 1.1% per year, at a time when the The average annual increase in the selling price of homes in Aspen, Great Recession, was 5.3%. In other words, according to Zillow’s figures, the cottage’s selling price should have been close to $ 6.8 million, a difference of almost 60%. And this is done directly to the detriment of the housing fund.

The city went too far and compromised itself by interfering in Gerberg’s private business dealings in 2006, and as a result tied up public money from the Housing Development Fund for nearly 15 years. As a sign of contrition, or even just to straighten out the financial situation, the city should have removed the punitive and fraudulent historic designation and demolished the house before unloading it. An empty 6,000 square foot lot at this location would easily have raised a small fortune to responsibly pay off the housing coffers. But instead, an LLC will assume the title and legend of, according to its dubious historical designation, “a fine example of the chalet style of architecture that exemplifies the social and architectural history of Aspen as it began to grow. develop as a ski resort “. also known as the inexpensive chalet style prefab kit home.

And so the story ends. Or does he do it?

Something isn’t historic just because you want it to be. The Red Ant encourages new owners to challenge the city’s fraudulent historic designation on their property. Contact [email protected]

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