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Committee mulls over historic designation ordinance
The Finance/Economic Development/Regional Affairs Committee (FEDRAC) discussed the city's options for being able to designate homes and buildings as "historic."
The July 23 discussion was prompted by a desire to have the Dumas Bay Centre on Dash Point Road recognized as a historic site — something that Dumas Bay Centre's Conference Coordinator Rob Ettinger said is possible.
"I contacted Todd Scott with the King County Historic Preservation Program, and we had some discussion about what our options are," Ettinger said to FEDRAC on July 23. "His recommendation was that we create a historic preservation ordinance."
That ordinance must be adopted by the city council, and then a memorandum of understanding between King County and the City of Federal Way would be needed to proceed.
Ettinger outlined some of the requirements needed for a historic designation through the county, which would include "qualify(ing) as (having) significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering and culture."
Outside of that, other factors that would weigh in on something having historical significance would mean that any site "would be associated with the events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history, (or) associated with the lives a significant person in the past and or present."
A historic site could also "embody distinctive characteristics of a type/period method of construction, represents the work of a master, or possesses a high artistic value that represents a distinguishable entity, or that (the site) has yielded, or may yield, information important to history or prehistory."
Ettinger said Dumas Bay Centre could qualify, but that a review was needed because of some improvements that have been made to the building in the past few decades.
Community and economic development director Patrick Doherty said he thinks Dumas Bay Centre could also get the designation, although it would be unlikely that it would earn the honor for its architecture.
"It may be the fact that its importance (is) to the history of the community, and not the architecture that would be interesting to them," Doherty noted.
Ettinger said if a historic designation ordinance were crafted, it would help open up grant opportunities for any site with the designation. Doherty noted that for private property owners, a historic designation means tax credit opportunities for those property owners.
Doherty also touched on the fact that the city could have some measure of control if it were to craft a historic designation ordinance.
"Every city's ordinance is crafted uniquely, and a city has the ability to include a preservation component," he said. "Interestingly enough, there's some places where the outside isn't controlled, but certain things inside are controlled. Most smaller towns don't go that far, but many older cities have the controls part."
FEDRAC member and Councilmember Jeanne Burbidge expressed some concerns about this idea, citing the fact that it would require city staff to allocate their time toward the project.
"I would be more interested in more information before we would work toward a decision," she said. "The amount of staff time that would be involved in going through this process, and a few more specifics about potential limitations."
Doherty said he had spoken to the person in charge of historic designations in Wenatchee, and for that city, the position has become a full-time job.
During the discussion, it was brought up that the crafting of a historic designation ordinance is already on the city's Comprehensive Work Plan, although it's a low priority at this time. Committee and Councilmember Susan Honda said she thinks this process is one that should get under way, sooner rather than later.
"I'd like to see the city have such an ordinance," she said. "It's important for the city to have an ordinance such as this, and I'd like to see us take the next step."