Cheyenne Historic Preservation Board seeks to protect historic properties with city ordinance

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Cheyenne Historic Preservation Board wants to create a city law that would require owners of historic structures to maintain their properties.

Over the last two years, the board has worked on creating a demolition by neglect ordinance to prevent historical properties from falling into despair, according to a City Council memo. The ordinance would only apply to owners of historical structures that have a contributing status, meaning a building, structure, site, feature or object found in the local or National Register historic district.

The board presented the ordinance at a City Council Work Session in February 2021, a public forum in March 2021 and a Downtown Development Authority Work Session in April 2021. Following those meetings, the board met with the Planning and Development Department, City Attorney’s Office and Building Department to discuss the feedback from the meetings listed above and to make comments on the ordinance.

The board hoped to get the ordinance approved on third and final reading during Monday’s City Council meeting. The City Council, however, unanimously voted to postpone the vote for two weeks to allow for more discussion. Some councilmembers expressed concerns that the ordinance would infringe on people’s property rights and be a financial burden to the city and community.

Laybourn, who motioned for the postponement, called the ordinance “far-reaching” and believes the city needs to thoroughly examine several factors, including who will be appointed to the proposed Review Committee and how the city will repair the property if owners claim economic hardship.

In the ordinance, a Review Committee would be established and appointed by the preservation board to investigate any violations and determine if an owner can claim economic hardship. If an owner cannot afford the upkeep for their historic structure, the city would have to come in and provide solutions, including providing the owner with loans or grants or purchasing the structure all together.

The Ward I representative said there are roughly 1,300 historical residences in Cheyenne, and he is concerned the ordinance will confuse people.

“I don’t deny that over the years the city of Cheyenne hasn’t been the best historic preservation community,” Laybourn said during the meeting. “However, you’re talking about 1,300, primarily residences.”

Councilmember Michelle Aldrich also favored the postponement. As a former owner of a 1920s bed and breakfast registered with the National Register of Historic Places in Carbon County, Aldrich said there are a lot of responsibilities that come with keeping a historical property.

“I would like to ask my colleagues to support the postponement so it’s not something that we have to rush into,” she said during the meeting. “It’s a pretty far-reaching concern on personal property rights as well as economic obligations for the city.”

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