Frisco counts its historical blessings with new register project
The town of Frisco is pushing forward on new plans to update their historic overlay land use provisions. The town hopes to develop a new register of historic properties in town and encourage property owners to preserve the historic character of Frisco.
The town currently has provisions in its code that encourage owners of historic properties to preserve the buildings — ideally on the original site — by providing incentives to include the property into any new developments, and to refrain from making any major changes to significant architectural structures.
“We have a land use code that speaks to trying to preserve historic buildings in place,” said Joyce Allgaier, community development director for Frisco. “We’re trying to preserve that historic integrity, the fabric and the vestiges of Frisco’s past. It’s very well documented that historic preservation can add to property values, as well as opportunities for cultural tourism and enhancing the character of the community.”
Currently, the standards for the historical overlay district are relatively relaxed, primarily requiring that properties are at least 50 years old, have “unique historical significance” and that remodeling hasn’t considerably altered the original significant features of the structure.
For buildings that meet the requirement, owners are offered a number of incentives to retain the original structure during any new development on the land, including relief from the town’s requirements for setbacks, lot coverage, density, parking and snow storage.
“Typically when somebody comes in and they want to develop and there’s historic buildings on that property, they typically raze them,” said Allgaier. “So what we’re saying is, in the process of designing your development, that we’ve got some incentives for you that may make it worth your while to leave the historic building and work around it.”
A great example of this is the historic Deming Cabin on North Fifth Avenue. Last year Frisco struck a deal with developer Jaime Haass, which provided waivers for workforce-housing requirements, setbacks and the building’s mass in exchange for preserving the cabin up to the U.S. Department of Interior’s preservation standards. Today the cabin remains as part of the Deming Crossing development.
But the town is currently in the process of updating the historic overlay district provisions, with the goal of clearly identifying the town’s most valuable historic assets, along with reigning in some of the incentives that town council feels are too permissive.
Earlier this year the town received a $21,000 grant from the state to assist with the register, and hired Suzannah Reid of Reid Architects to get the process started. Reid, with assistance from Allgaier, assistant community development director Bill Gibson and Frisco Historic Museum director Simone Belz, will be working to catalog historic properties in town and create a register of the most vital historic properties. In other words, the town is looking to break away from the blanket 50-year-old standard, and create their own list of buildings worthy of offering preservation incentives.
Reid, who spoke at the Frisco Town Council workshop on Tuesday evening, said the process will focus more on historical significance and integrity than on age or aesthetics. The town will initially choose 25 buildings to survey, collecting information on myriad factors including location, design, setting, materials and workmanship among others. But the team will also look to dissect the history of the properties, searching for associations with greater historical trends such as the area’s mining or skiing history. The register will include detailed mapping and photographs of the properties.
“The way to do this is kind of part science and part art,” said Allgaier. “We know that the historic buildings at the park are significant. Those tell a story about Frisco and the context of our community. But other buildings are reflective of other time periods that also tell stories about this community.”
Along with redefining which historical properties are worth preserving, the town will also be taking a look at the incentives that are offered to owners to preserve the properties. Currently the town feels that some of the incentives are a little too generous, such as the potential for waiving 100 percent of the town’s parking and snow removal requirements. The new historic overlay provisions will likely reel in some of the incentives. For example, while incentives may still include relief from snow removal and parking restrictions, the potential for 100 percent relief will likely be removed.
Worth noting is that even buildings deemed worthy of being placed in the historic register won’t be required to be preserved, as the town continues to prefer carrots to sticks. Likewise, not every historic property owner who applies for incentives will receive them, as waivers are passed down after review by the town’s planning commission.
Allgaier said that it will take between four to six months to complete the initial phase of the register, and that the town will be fine-tuning the new historic overlay waivers in the meantime.
“We want people to be able to develop and redevelop and do something new,” said Allgaier. “We just want the historic resource to be there … it’s about finding the balance between what developers need, and keeping that historic resource in place.”
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