The Park Record editorial, March 28-30, 2012 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, March 28-30, 2012

Preservation: City leaders are falling down on the job

Park City has a problem. Ever since the City Council stripped the former Historic District Commission of any real authority, it seems that historic homes have been falling prey to the wrecking ball. Last week another, this one located at 920 Empire Ave., was flattened.

Individually, the modest houses may not seem like significant historic structures, but each represents an integral part of Old Town’s unique character. Unfortunately, even the loss of one small miner’s shack creates a hole that threatens to unravel the fabric that gives Park City’s heart its charm.

Apparently, in lieu of an official overseer, Park City Museum Executive Director Sandra Morrison has taken it upon herself to be the champion for these threatened historic sites. It was Morrison who tried to alert the city about the building’s potentially historic significance and it was she who tried to avert the demolition. But Morrison did not have the authority, at least not officially.

A little more than a year ago, another house, located at 657 Park Ave, bit the dust. The demolition created a furor — after the fact. In the wake of that tempest, promises were made to be more vigilant, to bolster the review process for demolition permits and to, generally, recommit city resources to preserving historic structures.

Somehow, though, that memo was buried under a lot of more pressing matters. Admittedly, city staffers have a lot on their plates. With several major new developments like Park City Heights, Treasure and Bonanza Park on the docket, and an ongoing overhaul of the city’s development code underway, it is easy to see how a tiny shack could fall through the regulatory cracks. But it shouldn’t.

One of Park City’s most potent attractions is its historic backdrop. The scenic smattering of multi-hued rooftops that trim the canyon walls complement the city’s reputation for world-class winter sports and year-round culture to form an irresistible marketing tool. And while many residents may not be aware that their town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, most would admit they love the sight of Old Town’s cozy layered shacks hugging the mountainsides interspersed with snow-covered stairways and chairlift towers.

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The failure to save yet another piece of this delicate puzzle should serve as a wake-up call to City Hall and residents that the current system is not working. The city needs to revamp its current historic district panel and restore its powers to review and withhold demolition permits and to ensure that policies are in place to support those property owners who choose to become caretakers of our shared heritage.

Oh, and one more thing. Thank you, Sandra, for remaining vigilant while the rest of us were not.