The Denver Metro Association of Realtors, the area’s largest trade organization for real estate agents, is stepping up to fight the city’s controversial “historic designation review process” for residential real estate.  Through the city’s new process, city residents can claim a “historic designation” on another person’s property, and if approved by the City Council, severely restricts the property owner’s ability to improve, modify, or sell the property.

Under a 2012 change to the city’s code, just three Denver residents who feel that a house has historic attributes can ban together to submit an application for someone else’s home to be placed in this special class.  If an agitator cannot find two friends or family members to co-sponsor the hostile designation, he can get it done with one member of the Denver City Council or the manager of the Community Planning and Development Department.

This process has been abused in the past on numerous occasions to deny property rights to land owners in Denver.  Someone filed a hostile designation against the dilapidated Gates Rubber factory to stop the redevelopment of that blighted area of town.  Someone else filed a hostile designation against the owner of a partially demolished home in the ballpark neighborhood.

Just two months ago, a Denver City Councilman went up against a citizen attempting to sell her home in the Jefferson Park neighborhood.  His claim – two brothers who grew up to be prominent Denver architects lived there as children.  The house, more than 120-years old, requires tens of thousands of dollars in upkeep.

In late November, City Council members rejected their colleague’s hostile application on a 7-4 vote.  The home owner broke down in tears when it came time for her to address the meeting, saying, “This hostile designation has been anything but kind to me. I cannot afford the repairs or the upkeep. My house is my only investment, and my only nest egg for retirement.”

Members voting in favor of the hostile application were Rafael Espinoza, Debbie Ortega, Wayne New, and Paul Lopez.

The notion that citizens, based on nothing more than their feelings, have the right to impact the legal land use of another is a dangerous precedent.  Here’s a great idea for the historic preservation crowd – if they feel so strongly about preserving a historic looking house in the neighborhood – just buy it.