Littleton City Council voted 6-1 on Oct. 26 to approve a new downtown historic district designation. Patrick Driscoll, who represents District 1, which includes downtown Littleton, was the only …
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Littleton City Council voted 6-1 on Oct. 26 to approve a new downtown historic district designation. Patrick Driscoll, who represents District 1, which includes downtown Littleton, was the only councilmember who voted against the proposal.
The decision overhauls the current district designation along Main Street that property owners have had the option of joining since 2005. The new designation will automatically apply to all properties within the district's boundary, which will also be expanded beyond Main Street to include Alamo Avenue and several side streets.
The move is intended to better protect the downtown area, with some buildings that date back to the 1870s, from development and demolition that city staff said could threaten its community character. Staff also believe that an all-inclusive historic designation, as opposed to the current opt-in model, will better position Littleton to secure new grant funding from the state.
Before council's vote, Driscoll pushed an amendment that would have approved the new designation's boundaries while preserving property owners' ability to opt-in for the next five years. The amendment failed 5-2, with Driscoll and Littleton Mayor Jerry Valdes being the only votes in its favor.
Driscoll had raised concerns about the all-inclusive designation following pushback from several property owners during the meeting's public comment period.
Brad Manske, who owns several properties around Littleton including the ViewHouse on Mainstreet, said the district's expansion would put new parking pressure on businesses and residences outside the boundary.
Scott Wagner, who said he owns a building in the current historic district, feared that more stringent regulations on buildings could drive away business owners and called the move an “overreach.”
“There are other owners of businesses in downtown Littleton that I think would have a hard time making their investment work if they had to adhere to all the requirements,” he said.
Under the new designation, 69 of 82 buildings within the expanded boundary would be considered contributing buildings, meaning the buildings contribute historically or architecturally to the downtown area's character. These buildings would be subject to more stringent regulations regarding updates and renovations.
Driscoll, as part of his objection to the new designation, also pointed to negative feedback from some property owners who were sent ballots by city staff to gauge their support for an expanded, all-inclusive historic district.
Of the 53 ballots that were sent to various property owners, 22 were returned. Of those 22, only eight were in support of the new district while 14 were opposed.
But Mayor Pro Tem Scott Melin said the 31 property owners who did not return ballots could not be disregarded and called the 22 figure a “trivial sample size.”
While most property owners in attendance opposed the decision, other community members voiced their support.
Gale Keeley, president of Historic Littleton Inc., a nonprofit that promotes downtown preservation by designating properties as local landmarks and recognizing preservation efforts, said the new historic district will only improve the area's identity.
“People love Littleton because of its historic downtown … by expanding the historic district to include the buildings on Alamo we can do even more,” she said.
Littleton resident Iftin Abshir said the new designation would bolster protection for downtown Littleton and called the move “just the beginning” for preservation efforts.
“Historic buildings are physical reminders of what came before us and help to create a sense of culture in our neighborhood,” she said.
Mike Price, a Littleton resident, said an expanded historic district would ensure that Littleton's history is kept for generations to come by safeguarding buildings from being torn down or drastically changed.
To make his point, Price brought a book with him to the meeting titled “Lost Dayton” which chronicles the failure to preserve 25 historic buildings in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
“I just never want to see a book that says 'Lost Littleton,'” he said.
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