Neighbors to follow nearly 90 pages of guidelines should Browne’s Addition become historic district

The possibility of Browne’s Addition becoming a historic district has been on the table for more than three years and it’s close to becoming reality — but there’s a catch.

The distinction has carried the promise of helping homeowners with property taxes while preserving the history of Browne’s Addition old-fashioned feel. In an effort to ensure that, historic preservation officer Megan Duvall says homeowners will be asked to review nearly 90 pages of design standards.

“The area’s already a National Registered District and has been listed since 1976, but what people don’t really realize, is that that doesn’t mean that there’s any protection of those properties, particularly,” Duvall said.

The guidelines cover changes to exterior walls, roofs, porches, entrances and windows. Any changes to those elements of a home or building, plus any new construction, will need to be approved through a design review process conducted by the Spokane Historical Landmarks Commission.

The design review process will focus on all exterior changes of historic buildings and any exterior changes on the street-facing side of non-historic homes in an effort to ensure ‘any alterations to a building do not adversely affect that building’s historic character.’

“It might add a little bit of time to getting a building permit, you know, more time than just walking in the door, and getting a building permit,” said Duvall of the design review process.

While Duvall says the new set of guidelines acts as more of a suggestion than a mandate, local realtor and developer Bob Cooke believes they are too restrictive.

“Not everybody wants to live in a Dolly Parton theme park, where everything’s gonna be a Queen Anne or a Victorian. Varying architecture is what makes a neighborhood interesting,” he said. “By having the historic society come in and say, ‘from now on, we are going to dictate the look of your house,’ I just don’t think it’s right.”

Cooke is also upset some property owners were left out of the conversation. As seen in the map below, properties along Riverside Ave. were excluded from the historic district overlay, meaning they were not able to vote on the issue this summer.

Neighbors to follow nearly 90 pages of guidelines should Browne’s Addition become historic district

“All the newer properties, people that should have a say as to how their neighborhood looks — weren’t given a voice,” said Cooke, who lives in Browne’s Addition himself. “Those people did not have a say as far as what their neighborhood’s gonna experience.”

Duvall said those properties were left out of the overlay because preservation advocates did not want to impose more regulations than necessary on non-historic buildings. Duvall said more modern development will be easier for architects on the outskirts of the overlay.

“You’ll see new buildings mixed with old and that’s fine. The intent is not to stop development in Browne’s Addition. That will continue to happen, but now we’ll have a little bit more control over what the new buildings look like,” Duvall said. “We’re not going to make them build something that looks like it was historic. Actually, we really want people and developers and architects to design things that are contemporary but compatible.”

Should Browne’s Addition become a historic district, homeowners would be rewarded for making improvements to their properties.

“If somebody improves their property significantly, they can actually get a 10-year property tax reduction based on improving that property,” Duvall said.

Should the city council sign off on the district at its meeting Monday night, the ordinance would then move to Mayor Condon’s desk for approval.

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