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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
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
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
"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,"
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