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Everett's historic areas aren't the final word on fate of vintage homes

  • Valerie Tanaka and her dogs Tiki and Bamboo walk Thursday along Grand Avenue in Everett, passing by the large yellow house that some neighbors would p...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Valerie Tanaka and her dogs Tiki and Bamboo walk Thursday along Grand Avenue in Everett, passing by the large yellow house that some neighbors would prefer not be replaced by construction of a new home.

  • A city of Everett notice lies in the yard of the house at 1102 Grand Ave in Everett, which is to be moved or torn down.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    A city of Everett notice lies in the yard of the house at 1102 Grand Ave in Everett, which is to be moved or torn down.

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  • Valerie Tanaka and her dogs Tiki and Bamboo walk Thursday along Grand Avenue in Everett, passing by the large yellow house that some neighbors would p...

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    Valerie Tanaka and her dogs Tiki and Bamboo walk Thursday along Grand Avenue in Everett, passing by the large yellow house that some neighbors would prefer not be replaced by construction of a new home.

  • A city of Everett notice lies in the yard of the house at 1102 Grand Ave in Everett, which is to be moved or torn down.

    Dan Bates / The Herald

    A city of Everett notice lies in the yard of the house at 1102 Grand Ave in Everett, which is to be moved or torn down.

EVERETT -- To stroll along parts of Grand and Rucker avenues is to get a glimpse of the city's past.
Century-old homes, many still intact, line the streets in north Everett.
Yet, even in areas designated historic, property owners can still bulldoze or move historic homes.
"Many people have the impression that if it's designated historic, it has to be preserved and it can't be demolished," said Allan Giffen, Everett's Planning and Community Development director. "That's not the case."
That fact caught some people by surprise after the city approved a property owner's plans to replace a 1926 Dutch Colonial on Grand Avenue with a new, bigger home.
The plan upset some neighbors, who complained that the proposed, 74-foot-wide house was out of scale and out of character with the neighborhood.
"One house at a time, we're going to lose the face of our neighborhood," said Paula McCulloch at a Sept. 27 Historical Commission meeting.
The nonprofit preservation group Historic Everett filed an appeal, which went before the city's hearing examiner Thursday. A decision is expected sometime in the next few weeks.
The property owner declined to comment on the matter.
People choose to buy homes in the north end in part because of the historic designation and invest significant amounts of money, said Valerie Steel of Historic Everett. Removing a historic home from the neighborhood affects the property rights of every property owner in the area and decreases property values, she said.
In the appeal, the authors say the proposed home is a violation of the city's historic preservation goals and policies, and the planning director should have considered the compatibility of the proposed home with the neighboring houses.
With the exception of one home, all the existing houses on a block north and a block south have footprints that are 57 percent or less than the proposed structure, according to the appeal.
Everett has stronger protections for historical areas than most cities, Giffen said.
Everett has three designated historical areas, called overlay zones, that provide more stringent design standards for property owners who wish to remodel or build a new home. The standards dictate features such as roof lines, setbacks and location of garages.
Demolishing a "contributing structure" in one of the historic areas requires more than the $54 city demolition permit.
Owners must go before the city's Historical Commission first, then get the planning director's approval.
The city's Historical Commission reviews those projects, often providing homeowners with suggestions that help projects fit into the historical character of the neighborhood.
However, the commission is purely an advisory board. If the board feels a home shouldn't be removed or demolished, it can't force the property owner to stop.
That's what happened in this case.
On Sept. 27, the board met and held a public hearing on a proposal to move a home at 1102 Grand Ave. The board unanimously voted that the city should reject the proposal, citing the width of the house.
The planning director later decided to approve the demolition.
Giffen and other city staff said the proposed new home meets all the city's design standards, and therefore should be allowed to go forward.
The overlay standards and guidelines are meant to guide new development to blend in within the existing neighborhoods, not prevent it entirely, he said.
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com

Story tags » Historical SitesEverett

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