Provo Puts New Protections on Historic Landmarks

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- In the wake of the overnight demolition of the historic Hotel Roberts last November, the Provo Municipal Council has tightened its law protecting such landmarks.

Future proposals to demolish historic buildings, unless they pose an imminent safety hazard, will be subject to a public hearing as well as approval from the Landmark Commission.

"At least it makes a building inspector or whoever else be aware that there are other interested parties who should have an opportunity to do something," Brent Ashworth, Provo Landmarks Commission chairman, said Wednesday, the day after council's action.

"Look how close we came to the wrecking ball at the library (the former Brigham Young Academy). Now it's been fully restored and everybody loves it," he said.

The owners of Hotel Roberts struggled futilely for years to raise an estimated $5 million in preservation funds or find developers who would restore the 130-year-old landmark.

ArrowStar Construction ultimately purchased the property and razed the building, and executives said they are debating how to develop the lot.

The dilapidated structure was empty, unused and deteriorating, but residents and landmarks commissioners were infuriated no one notified them of its impending destruction.

"It was a surprise. People didn't know it was happening, and most people didn't know what the property owners had done to try and save it," said Jan Yeckes, assistant director of the Planning Department. "Eventually that building would have probably come down ... but there would at least have been that public review, and there would not have been that public shock."

The initial ordinance authorized city building inspectors to approve demolition if a building was structurally unsound or inflicting economic hardship on owners. Public notification and historical review were unnecessary.

The Provo Landmarks Commission drafted a recommended revision last December, but a paperwork oversight prevented the proposal from reaching the council agenda until Tuesday. Council members discussed the amendment only briefly before unanimously approving it.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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