Breck may require licenses for historic home renovations
BRECKENRIDGE – Kate Brewer learned the hard way, after her builder tore down the walls and roof of her historic home. The long-time Breckenridge resident had her home red-tagged, and ultimately had to provide in-town employee housing for what the planning commission deemed to be an “unmitigated, significant public detriment.” To prevent such activities from happening in the future, the town is considering implementing a program that would require contractors to obtain a license if they want to do work on historic structures in town.Town code requires homeowners to retain as much of the historic fabric of a home – siding, windows and other elements – as possible when renovating. It’s a daunting process. Hidden under the splintered walls of a historic house, layers and layers of historic newspaper, wallpaper and other items served as wall covering and insulation. Some of the layers are useless – fragile, torn or nibbled on by mice – but contractors are required to keep as much as possible intact.That doesn’t always happen because contractors – or more often, their sub-contractors – don’t know they’re supposed to keep the material.Aspen’s program – the only one like it in Colorado – requires general contractors on a historic project to take a town-developed test before receiving a license. Aspen’s test costs $40, and entitles the successful test-taker to a three-year license.According to Breckenridge town planner Susan Padgett, Aspen has experienced only one major enforcement problem with the licensing procedure – an overnight demolition for which the property owner had to pay a $125,000 fine – and believes the training program enables contractors to understand their limitations.Punishments can include revocation of the project and any variances or density bonuses the owner might have been granted, or a 10-year suspension on all permits on that property.Contractors who violate the ordinance can be subject to losing their historical preservation license, their city-issued contractor’s license or fines.Breckenridge is considering implementing the model Aspen uses, but could change enforcement tactics.The town might also decide to assemble general information packets regarding the program, and creating a training manual complete with test-preparation materials.
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