Spokane City Council considers historic property preservation updates

Spokane City Council considers historic property preservation updates

UPDATE: The proposal was approved by a 6 – 1 vote.

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Development is booming in Spokane, but some people worry that we’re tearing down too much of the city’s heritage. That concern is at the heart of a proposal the Spokane City Council will vote on Monday.

“You can take down an historic structure with very little process,” Spokane City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear said.

She, along with neighborhood leaders from Browne’s Addition, want to change that. Kinnear said there’s been growing concerns about the short process for developers to alter or destroy historic buildings during recent growth.

The city’s existing preservation ordinance hasn’t been update in nearly 10 years, according to Kinnear. Currently, a property owner wanting to demolish or renovate an historic building just has to replace it with some other structure.

Kinnear’s measure aims to create more process to preserve,or, in some cases, demolish historic buildings.

“The Landmark Commission is given a little more latitude and they are also given the responsibility of design review and they use the same standard for design review as federal guidelines,” Kinnear said. “It’s not to say all old buildings are worth saving, because they’re just not, but we are going to evaluate those and look at those a lot closer than we have been.”

The updates would create historic overlays if a majority of property owners within that district opt for the designation. Those overlays could be as large as an entire neighborhood, or as small as a few blocks.

Kinnear says the proposal also provides incentives for smaller projects, including grants for facade and sidewalk improvements.

But, not everyone supports these recommendations. Spokane developer Asher Ernst said he supports preserving historic buildings when possible, but believes this proposal doesn’t have clear guidelines to make sure developers know what they’re facing before they start a project.

The city’s Planning Commission has reviewed Kinnear’s plans and submitted some revisions, some of which Kinnear says she plans to include during Monday’s meeting.

The full City Council will consider the ordinance along with public testimony during Monday’s meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at the Spokane City Hall.