After months of waiting, the Cortez Historic Preservation Board wants to move forward on establishing a historic district on Montezuma Avenue.
At the board’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, vice chairwoman Linda Towle said it was time to start working on the Montezuma project again, after it was stalled last summer in anticipation of possible changes to the Cortez land-use code.
The avenue is lined with some of the oldest houses in Cortez, and designating part of it as an official historic district has been a dream of Towle’s for more than a year. The board started raising support for the district last summer, but stopped after city attorney Mike Green questioned the wording of the current land use code for historic districts at a city council workshop in July.
Towle wants to start raising support again.
“It’s now been seven months, so I have not done anything with the district, and I really want to get this moving forward,” she said at the meeting.
The board needs a letter of support with signatures from at least 70 percent of the property owners in the proposed district in order to apply for a historic designation, and in July they were only one or two signatures short of that. Since then, three properties in the area have changed hands. But signatures aren’t the primary obstacle to the project.
The current land-use code would require Cortez citizens to notify the preservation board before making major changes to a house or business in a historic district, although the board doesn’t have the power to veto any changes. But at the July workshop, Green, along with city manager Shane Hale, said the code isn’t worded clearly enough. Since not every building on Montezuma Avenue is a designated historic site, it’s not clear whether people living in newer buildings would need to consult the board before altering their homes, or whether dropping that requirement would go against the state’s criteria for historic districts.
Assistant city planner Tracie Hughes has been working with Mark Rodman, the director of preservation programs for History Colorado, to figure out the details of the code’s requirements for historic districts. She said she hopes to schedule a conference call between him and the board members next week, to nail down the problems with the current wording and figure out how to fix them. The revised land-use code won’t come before the board for a few months, Hughes said, but clarity on the historic district section could come sooner.
“We’re waiting on comments from several other people,” she said. “I think it’s all going to happen in the next few weeks.”
Meanwhile, Towle said she plans to start writing letters of support for the district again, in the hope they can get it designated “very soon.”
During the meeting, the board also began discussions about what to do for the city’s annual Historic Preservation Week celebration, which is scheduled for May 21. Chairman Dale Davidson suggested this year’s theme might have to do with celebrating the history of Cortez’s parks, but no final decisions were made.