By Debra Smith Herald Writer
EVERETT — A property owner who plans to replace an older home with a new, far larger one on Grand Avenue is free to do so.
The Everett hearing examiner denied an appeal this week filed by neighbors who were concerned that a large, new home would ruin the character of a historic neighborhood — and their property values.
“The only real thing left to do is point out the obvious,” said Valerie Steel of Historic Everett. “The city lacks code to enforce its own policies.”
The home, a 1926 Dutch Colonial, is located in a historic overlay zone that provides more stringent design standards for property owners who wish to remodel or build a new home.
The owners of the house want to remove the Dutch Colonial and replace it with a new home that is 74 feet wide.
Anyone who wants to remove or demolish a home in the overlay zone must first go before the city’s Historical Commission, then get the planning director’s approval.
The commission is purely an advisory board. In this case, the board recommended the city reject the proposal, citing the width of the house.
But planning director Allan Giffen later decided to approve the property owner’s plan. He said the proposed home meets all the city’s standards.
The authors of the appeal said 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.
Hearing examiner James Driscoll said in his decision that the planning director correctly applied the city’s zoning standards.
He also said that city law does not give the Historical Commission any authority to review new single-family homes slated for construction in overlay zones.
At the time the code was passed, some people were concerned about the commission having the right to review single-family home projects, Giffen said. The thought at the time was that the commission should be concerned with larger projects.
That’s shocking, Steel said.
The commission is supposed to review homes within the zone with some historical value that owners want to move or demolish. The commission also reviews projects in which owners want to convert a single-family into apartments or a clinic.
It makes no sense for them not to also review any new projects that might be built in these zones, she said.
Steel said she has no plans to take the matter any further.
“It’s up to the Historical Commission to determine if they care to give teeth to the understanding, appreciation and cultivation of Everett’s dwindling heritage resources,” Steel said.
Debra Smith: 425-339-3197; firstname.lastname@example.org.