November 4, 2009

Decision on library upheld after appeal

Mike Potter
Staff Writer

Library appropriate The Fairplay Board of Trustees upheld a Fairplay Planning Commission decision to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the design of the new Fairplay Library addition to the Old Courthouse, which is used for the current library and shown here. (Photo by Mike Potter/The Flume)

The Fairplay Planning Commission's Oct. 13 decision concerning the look of the planned renovations and additions to the library building in Fairplay was upheld after an Oct. 21 appeal filed by Fairplay resident Don Stevenson.

The Fairplay board of trustees upheld the planning board's decision at a Nov. 12 public hearing.

Park County filed an application for appropriateness for the design of the new structure, which was approved by the Fairplay Planning Commission.

Stevenson filed the appeal because he was concerned the proposed design of the new structure would "not advance the historic preservation goals of the town," and he felt that there could be a better location for the library and county offices addition, according to information provided by the town of Fairplay.

The "Findings and Decision" document from the Fairplay trustees said: "Stevenson testified that he believed the new structure dominates and overpowers the existing courthouse." He also argued that the Colorado Historical Fund grant contract, which was signed on Aug. 31, 2004, prohibited construction or alteration on the courthouse building without Colorado Historical Society approval.

In an interview with The Flume, Stevenson said he wanted to make sure the Fairplay town trustees were aware of that fact.

"I wanted a responsible board that was answerable for their actions," he said. "We didn't get what we wanted, but it was still an issue that had to be brought before the responsible board."

He doesn't oppose the construction of the new library, just the location, he said.

"It's good for the town," he said.

The town's certificate of appropriateness was the final step in getting approval to do the construction of the library.

Park County Library Director Patty Chapman said the preliminary designs for the building have already been approved by the U.S. Department of Interior standards for historic buildings, the State Historical Fund, and the Park County Historic Preservation Advisory Committee.

Although the design of the library is still in flux, the building would not need to get another certificate of appropriateness from the town unless the project is scrapped and started over from the beginning.

Chapman said every effort was being made to make sure the design of the addition wouldn't overpower the charm of the 135-year-old building.

She said a certificate of appropriateness granted by the Fairplay Planning Commission shows that the plans for the new building are in compliance.

"The application to the town was for the appropriateness of the design on the building, not whether it could or not be built here," she said.

Chapman said the Colorado Historical Society would be working with Park County Libraries during the construction because of a historic preservation lien it has on the old courthouse.

Linda Balough, director of the Park County Office of Historic Preservation, said the courthouse is on the National Registry of Historical Places. Usually that designation is only honorary, but the building received money from the Colorado Historical Society's State Historical Fund for remodeling.

Balough said the money went to repairing the roof and chimney of the building.

"Since they gave us the money... they hold a preservation easement on the courthouse, which gives them the right to say 'let's make sure everything that is done is appropriate.'"

That means the Colorado Historical Society, which awarded the grant to fund the repairs, can block changes to the building if they are deemed inappropriate.

She said the guidelines are pretty straightforward.

"Don't do something that takes away from telling the story of the history," Balough said.

In other words?

"You don't put aluminum siding on a log cabin," she said.

The building architects are trying to design a building that would augment the existing one, without overpowering it, which was of some concern because the addition will be three times larger than the current library.

Balough has been pleased with what the architects have done so far.

"I was stunned," she said. "They did an excellent job of taking a building mass and still not dominating the courthouse in the design."

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