City Council Rejects Contentious Historic Designation of Jefferson Park Home

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In a victory for proponents of property rights, the Denver City Council on Monday, November 21, rejected historic designation for Judith Battista’s Jefferson Park home, which we wrote about last week.

Battista, who applied for a Certificate of Non-Historic Status on August 1, has spent months fighting off efforts by City Councilman Rafael Espinoza to have the home she’s owned for nearly ten years designated historic.

“This whole process is so flawed it’s not even funny,” Battista says. “There have been so many loopholes that it’s almost like, what’s going to happen next? When I get that piece of paper in my hand, that’s when it will be real.”

Having the certificate means that if Battista wants to sell her home, at 2849 West 23rd Avenue, to a developer, it can be demolished to make way for condos or townhomes.

Matthew Rork, an attorney at Fairfield and Woods who represents Battista, says he expects the Landmark Preservation Commission to issue the Certificate of Non-Historic Status within the next few days as required by ordinance.

“More importantly, based on the discussions at last night’s council meeting, it appears that the hostile designation ordinance," what opponents call the Owner-Opposed Historic Designation, "as currently written is ripe for abuse, raises significant concerns regarding the rights of property owners in Denver, and is in need of revision,” Rork says. “We intend to work proactively with the council in making the necessary revisions to protect the rights of property owners in Denver while at the same time ensuring that structures that truly merit historic designation are properly preserved for the citizens of Denver.”

Espinoza filed the Owner-Opposed Historic Designation application to prevent the home from being razed. He had maintained that because Battista’s Queen Anne-style house was the childhood residence of well-known Denver architects Burnham and Merrill Hoyt, it is historically significant. The brothers jointly and independently designed some of Denver’s most architecturally significant buildings, including the Park Hill Library, the Denver Press Club, Lake Middle School, Cherokee Castle and the amphitheater at Red Rocks. Many of the structures they designed have been designated as historic on a local and national level.

“I will continue to fight for my constituents to preserve the important links to our past, the character of our neighborhoods and the communities that have been created as a result,” says Espinoza, who before he was sworn in as a councilmember last summer made at least two other unsuccessful attempts to have properties in Jefferson Park and Highland designated historic. “Our community deserves better than to have the destruction of a truly significant historic structure be simply a check box on the path to create evermore overpriced townhomes that erode the character of a neighborhood and disregard that community’s history.”

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