By Mark Esper
A proposed false storefront to back up the patio at the Pride of the West Bar on Greene Street was a bit too false for the Silverton Town trustees, who panned the proposal in a 4-2 vote Monday night, July 27.
Bar owner Ken Boden said “all I want to do is build a nice-looking fence” to separate the patio from the clutter behind it.
But the proposal had run afoul of the town’s Historic Review Committee, which was formed to review designs in the town’s historic district, which encompasses downtown.
Town Planner Adam Sickmiller said the committee objected to the false storefront not being attached to any building at all. The committee also expressed concern that such fake storefronts would be put up on other empty lots in what Sickmiller described as “Disney-fication of town.”
Boden noted the lot adjacent to the POW where the patio now stands used to be the Arlington Saloon, where Wyatt Earp dealt cards in the summer of 1883.
Boden said he “didn’t need to spend the extra three or four thousand” to build a fake storefront. “It could just be hum-drum.
“It was just to be decorative. I thought it would fit the town well,” Boden said.
He pointed to the letter he received from town officials rejecting the design, which noted concerns about views from the alley behind the wall.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Boden said. “We don’t have a lot of traffic back there.”
And he said a fence already blocks that view substantially. He also noted the facade would be set back 50 feet from the street and would be just 25-feet wide.
“I was just trying to do it right, that’s all,” Boden said. “I’ve been here for 20 years. I’m not building a Quonset hut. I’m trying to build something nice.”
Sickmiller recommended the Town Council stand by the Historic Review Committee’s decision.
San Juan Regional Planning Commission Chairman Fritz Klinke urged likewise.
“This is a recommendation by a panel the Town Board appointed,” Klinke said. “Their reasoning is supported by the ordinance the town passed. And alternative designs are available.”
Klinke said “the Town Board should support the people it appoints to review these requests.”
Sickmiller said the problems with the proposal are “it’s a free-standing facade not compliant with the intent of the ordinance,” and the structure’s impact on views from the back.
Town Trustee Brison Gooch said he thought the facade was a good idea, and he discounted concerns about views from the alley.
“I drove down that alley,” Gooch said. “Anything put in there would be an improvement.”
Gooch said it appears to be a case of the committee following the letter of the law “and not paying attention to common sense.
“I think this is a wonderful idea and should be supported,” Gooch said.
Mayor Terry Kerwin expressed concern about the scope of the Historic Review Committee’s reach.
He said he thought the idea was for the committee to review designs and not approve or reject entire structures.
“Does this erase certain things that are allowed (downtown)?” Kerwin asked. “I envisioned this as a design issue, not that things wouldn’t be allowed.”
Town Trustee Chris Tookey, who also serves on the Historic Review Committee, said the panel did not make its decision lightly.
“We spent two hours talking about it,” Tookey said. “It was not an easy decision.”
Others on the Historic Review Committee are David Singer, Greg Swanson, George Chapman and Scott Fetchenhier.
Gooch made a motion to override the committee’s decision and allow the structure, but his motion failed to draw a second.
Tookey’s motion to deny the appeal was seconded by Trustee Pat Swonger.
“This is a tough call,” Swonger said. “There’s going to be times like this. In the long run we need to look at the bigger issue and protect the look of what is Silverton.”
Swonger said he was reluctant to “overturn the work of those who spent a lot of time on it.”
Gooch expressed concern that the downtown historic district guidelines in this case were “a handicap to improvement of this town.”
Trustee David Zanoni said he sympathizes with Boden’s intent.
“He’s trying to dress up his patio,” Zanoni said. “But it could open the floodgate on other vacant lots. That’s what’s got me concerned.”
The motion to uphold the Historic Review Committee’s verdict on the matter passed by a vote of 4-2, with Gooch and Kerwin opposed, and Tookey, Swonger, Zanoni and Trustee Jim Lindaman in favor. Trustee John Schertz was absent.