Historic district gets OK

NORTH BEND — In a move that could bring in more tourist dollars

but has irritated some property owners, a section of North Bend's

downtown commercial area was officially designated last week as a Historic

Landmark District.

The district includes 17 buildings and two vacant lots, and was

nominated for the designation by the North Bend Landmarks and Heritage

Program, a cooperation between the city and the County's Landmarks

and Heritage Program. The program's purpose is to support local history

through preserving significant buildings.

"When you think of downtown, you think of it as the

community's heart. One great thing is (that) North Bend has a core area, so you can

see how the town developed," said Michele Finnegan, management

analyst for the city of North Bend.

She added that a brown historic sign will be placed on Interstate 90

and should bring tourists into town.

"It's going to be pulling people off of I-90 right and left," said Julie

Koler, historic preservation officer for the county's landmarks program. She

explained that national areas and historic sites rate first in the country's

tourist attractions.

The city of Snoqualmie has had a historic landmark district for a

couple of years, but city officials said it's too soon to know how many tourists

are drawn in as a result.

Several of the designated buildings in North Bend were built

between 1915 and 1940, an era of increasing highway tourism. At that time,

downtown North Bend was a gateway between mountain passes and the

Puget Sound, and businesses served traveler's needs.

With the designation comes a set of regulations and guidelines for

any exterior alterations to the buildings, and incentives for building owners

to revive their structures, including a 10-year tax valuation freeze,

architectural design assistance and better access

to grants and low-interest loans.

The decision was made July 27 after a five-week public comment

period by the City of North Bend Landmarks Commission.

The committee is made up of five King County Landmarks and

Heritage Program commissioners, plus North Bend representative

Gardiner Vinnedge.

"For this particular nomination, what's special is you can see (an

early) downtown North Bend in these buildings; you can see the different

periods of architectural style," Vinnedge said.

But when speaking about the type of comments received during the

public-hearing process, Vinnedge said the designation process was

misunderstood and that some building owners thought the historic designation

would force them to refurbish their buildings, which, he said, is not the case.

"If property owners want to maintain the current configurations of

their buildings and don't want to make changes or restore them, they can

do that," Vinnedge said.

He added that if the historic designation were detrimental to

property owners, then it wouldn't have been set it up in the first place.

Oral comments were not accepted during last week's meeting, but at

the June landmark commission's public hearing, several of the

nominated buildings' owners spoke against the designation.

According to the meeting's minutes, Bill Glazier, who owns

four buildings in the district, said the designation would mean the local

government could tell owners how to maintain their buildings. He added that

the city has too many design restrictions, and, as a result, many people

don't have enough money to meet them.

Records also show that Mark Cilley, a representative of two of

the historic buildings, said North Bend residents should be the ones to

decide whether the district receives historic designation. He added that building

owners should have more say in their property's fate.

In explaining the historic designation, officials point to county

documents that report, "the historic preservation regulations are not

designed to force property owners to maintain their property in a certain way or

to restore their building."

However, Landmarks Commissioner Bob Cokewell, North

Bend, was the only official to vote against the designation. He explained that

although he thinks the plan is an excellent idea, he voted no.

"I voted against it because the majority of the people who

testified in front of us were against it," and

they represented the majority of the properties.

He explained that, of the people who testified at the June meeting,

eight people who represented 10 buildings were against the historic

designation, and five people, who represented

three buildings, supported it. Of those who testified, some were not building

owners but concerned residents.

According to officials and county documents, the commissioners

were supposed to base their vote only on whether the buildings in the

district met certain historic criteria and not take opinions into account.

"Even though I should not have taken (their testimony) into

consideration, I felt the majority of the people should be listened to," Cokewell


"But I would have liked to see a special hearing set up for those

building owners who were against it to show them the benefits of it,"

he added.

Still, others see a clear benefit to the designation.

Brian and Karlene Slover are pleased to be part of the district.

They own the North Bend Theatre and restored it last fall with help from

the county's landmarks program.

"We're really glad that we (restored) it historically," Karlene

Slover said. "Downtown North Bend has so much potential, and we feel that

we have an obligation to do something with our property. You can say,

`It's my property and I can do what I want with it,' but we do have to think

about the downtown as a whole."

Officially, North Bend's historic designation will stand, unless


Anyone wanting to appeal the decision must submit in writing his

or her claim of how the criteria under which the entire district was

designated were not met. The appeal must be filed with the city no later than

Sept. 8.

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