by Henry Netherland
Mail Staff Writer
City Attorney Nina Williams led an attorney training presentation for members of Salida Historic Preservation Commission at their Thursday work session.
Commission members reviewed ex parte communications as well as the difference between quasi-judicial and legislation.
Quasi-judicial applies to occasions when commission members are able to act as judges when making decisions.
One difference between quasi-judicial and legislation is that quasi-judicial applies policy. It does not make policy, unlike legislation. In addition, for legislation some personal belief can be applied in decision making, whereas quasi-judicial must remain entirely objective.
Williams said impartiality can be affected by three factors: ex parte communications, prejudgment or conflicts of interest.
Ex parte communications are messages sent to individual members without the other affected individuals present. One example is if a neighbor approached a member at Walmart to express concerns about an application. Members should disclose on the record if some sort of outside interaction took place.
Regarding conflicts of interest, Williams said most of the time it is based on financial benefits, but it could apply to some personal benefits as well. City Administrator Drew Nelson recommended members use a strategy called “follow the money,” where if after reflection, a member realized a decision would eventually bring money into their pockets, it is better to recuse themselves.
When in doubt, Williams recommended speaking with city attorneys. She said when entering gray areas, members should err on the conservative side.
Williams also reviewed Salida Downtown Design Standards, which cover aspects such as preserving architectural character, minimizing change and avoiding destruction of existing historic structure and materials during new construction.
In the context of an appeal during a council meeting, commission members are not allowed to speak on the subject outside their recorded decision. They are considered unbiased judges and not a part of the “other side.”
One change the commission recommended for the code or for staff to take to council for consideration is enforcing some kind of penalty for applicants asking for approval after project completion. One suggestion was similar to the building code, which would double the fee if work is done before obtaining a permit.
Later in the meeting, the commission discussed a visit to Salida April 23 by Erica Duvic of History Colorado. Every four years a History Colorado preservation planner reviews Salida records such as surveys and websites.
During her visit, commission members would like to clarify the definition of a ghost sign and determine some kind of protection so such signs cannot be painted over.