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Publish Date: 3/3/2005

Ahlberg, Times-Call to offer expansion details
Chapel, newspaper public meetings tonight


LONGMONT — Plans by a longtime local funeral chapel and crematory to demolish its historic building and move to a new facility nearby continue to upset some residents of the city’s West Side neighborhood.

Tonight, city residents will have a chance to learn more details of the plans by Ahlberg Funeral Chapel to move from 326 Terry St. a few hundred feet north to a new building at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Terry Street.

That corner once was home to a First MainStreet Bank drive-through and ATM facility, which have been demolished. The Times-Call proposes to move two houses, one at 415 Terry St. and one at 814 Fourth Ave., to different locations to complete the new site for the Ahlbergs.

The Ahlberg family plans to demolish its current building — the core of which was built in 1882 — as part of a land exchange with the Daily Times-Call newspaper.

The Times-Call, headquartered at 350 Terry St., is considering expanding south onto the current Ahlberg site and onto 320 Terry St., the site of a 105-year-old building called the “Green House,” which the Times-Call owns. A separate hearing on the newspaper’s plans for demolishing the Green House will be at 5 p.m.

“Please don’t tear down our heritage,” said West Side Neighborhood president Stephen Mojzsis on Tuesday night.

Mojzsis has been one of the loudest critics of the Ahlberg/Times-Call plan, and his frequent appearances before the Longmont City Council over the past several months has council members frustrated.

Critics have not only attacked the plans, but they have also accused the council, city staff, the Times-Call and the Ahlberg Funeral Chapel of rigging the process and stifling public debate.

Until early this year, the Ahlberg family had not filed a formal plan for the move. The Times-Call has not announced any specific details, and Mayor Julia Pirnack said the criticism started before anyone had concrete information about either proposal.

“Before people have the facts, they start reacting to rumors,” Pirnack said at Tuesday night’s council meeting. “I would like us to wait until we have something to talk about. We need to be able to talk about facts, not rumors.”

So far, there are three concrete pieces in play:

nThe Ahlberg family has won city approval to demolish its current building. The city’s Historic Preservation Advisory Board sought to protect the chapel with a historic designation, but the city council declined, saying the building had changed too much from its original construction. The city council has continued its past policy of not placing landmark status on private property against the wishes of the owner.

The Ahlbergs have filed a plan to build a new, similar but larger chapel at Fourth and Terry. A public meeting on that plan is slated for 7 p.m. tonight. Members of the city council are expected to attend.

nThe Times-Call has requested permission to demolish the Green House. A hearing before the Historic Preservation Commission is set for 5 p.m. today at city hall. The newspaper has not yet offered specific plans for an expansion.

Randy Ahlberg said his family is committed to Longmont and needs to expand to better serve the community. The new chapel would have more parking and be handicapped-accessible.

“My family has been in the fabric of the community for many years,” Ahlberg said. “We are good neighbors. We care about the community.”

Some of those community residents disagree. They cite the Ahlbergs’ decision to demolish their current chapel and the continued presence of the company’s crematorium. They are also upset at what they call the council’s piecemeal approach to changes along Terry Street.

In response to concerns about the crematorium, the city council is considering whether to pass a law requiring crematoriums to be located in industrial parks. Council members said they have received letters from area residents concerned about the location of the crematorium. There is another in the same area.

“Psychologically, the idea of a crematorium has an effect on you, especially if it’s in your back yard,” said Councilman Doug Brown. “It’s just a psychological thing, and that’s as important as anything in the community.”

Trevor Hughes can be reached at 303-684-5220, or by e-mail at thughes@times-call.com.

If you go

What: The Historic Preservation Commission will discuss the Daily Times-Call’s request to demolish the “Green House” at 320 Terry St.

When: 5 p.m.

Where: The Longmont Civic Center, 350 Kimbark St.

What: A community meeting to discuss plans by the Ahlberg family to build a new chapel and crematorium at the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Terry Street

When: 7 p.m.

Where: The Longmont Public Library, 409 Fourth Ave.

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