Colorado towns enforce strict design criteria
"You cant just say, This is ugly and I dont
like it. Thats a good way to get sued."
Kaye Simonson, Tellurides historic preservation planner
By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer
Western resort towns depend on their good looks to draw visitors and
year-round residents. Thats a matter of great concern to Ketchums planners,
but some towns have far more restrictive laws to maintain those looks than does Ketchum.
Examples of two of those communities are Telluride and Crested Butte in
Colorado. Both were developed as mining towns in the 19th century and have extensive
Both towns had help developing their guidelines from a Boulder, Colo.,
consulting firm called Winter and Co. According to the firms president, Nore Winter,
his goal is to help those and similar places remain a "refuge from Generica."
As a result, both towns require every proposed new building to go through
"You cant just say, This is ugly and I dont like
it," said Tellurides historic preservation planner Kaye Simonson.
"Thats a good way to get sued."
But, Simonson said, even the details of design can be governed if specific
criteria are drawn up.
According to Simonson, Tellurides design standards are based on five
Keep it simple.
Keep it in scale with surrounding buildings.
Respect historical resources.
Make all new design compatible with the existing context.
Encourage new interpretations of traditional building types.
Simonson said that when the towns design guidelines were rewritten
in 1997, planners took pictures of many of the historic buildings there and distilled
their appearances into a list of architectural details.
"From there you develop the guidelines that are desirable," she
Simonson said planners can require that a house have a front porch, for
example, or a more steeply pitched roof, or a certain shape chimney. They can demand that
buildings be constructed of traditional materials.
"Forget it," she said.
Crested Buttes building inspector, Scott Lefevre, said new buildings
there are required to have simple forms, be built of wood and have vertical lines, steeply
pitched roofs and double-hung windows.
Both Crested Butte and Telluride have National Historic Landmark
Districts. However, planners there said that doesnt grant them any more regulatory
In addition to their design criteria, both Telluride and Crested Butte
have limits on residential building size.
In Telluride, its a flat maximum of 4,000 square feet. In Crested
Butte, the allowed size varies by lot size, but through most of town it is a maximum of
2,800 square feet, Lefevre said. He said that in new subdivisions on the outskirts of
town, the maximum is 3,750 square feet.
Lefevre admitted that Crested Buttes thick code of building
regulations "screens a lot of people away from building here.
"Its really heated right now. There are a lot of people who
would like to just maximize [their investment] and split."
However, he added, Crested Buttes look is "a great selling
asset as far as a tourist town is concerned."