Hearing examiner says city followed code
Project highlights weakness in historic preservation rules, opponents say
EVERETT - A property owner can replace a 1920s home with a larger dream house despite efforts of historic preservation advocates to stop the project.
Neighbors and Historic Everett fought the project because they say it would disrupt the character of the neighborhood and devalue the historical integrity of the neighborhood.
A city hearing examiner disagreed, determining last week that planning director Allan Giffen followed city code in allowing a 1926 Dutch Colonial to be relocated for the construction of a new house.
The project highlights Everett’s lax code regarding historic preservation, Historic Everett president Valerie Steel said.
The architectural plans for the new house provided by property owners Harv and Jan Jubie show a 3,883-square-foot house that meets the zoning code for the area. Most of the homes on the block are about 1,500 square feet and built before 1950.
The Jubies’ plan takes away a historic home to introduce a “McMansion” on the block, Steel said previously. Opponents of the project say the home will set an unwanted precedent for historic zones.
“There was no way we could change things … all we could do was point out the obvious,” Steel said after the Feb. 7 hearing examiner ruling.
Urban planners in Portland, Spokane and other cities told Steel that Everett’s code is weak, she said. Steel is a real estate broker focused on historic preservation.
Giffen declined to comment on Steel’s concerns without talking to Steel first.
“We try to do right,” Giffen said.
The home in the 1100 block of Grand Avenue sits in a historic overlay, which places additional building requirements in the area.
The overlay rules, in theory, are supposed to protect the historical nature of the neighborhood. It does not prohibit the removal or demolition of historic homes.
Giffen approved the new home because it met the zoning code for that area. Hearing examiner James Driscoll agreed with Giffen’s decision.
City planners worked with the homeowners to make sure it met design standards, Giffen said. The design is reminiscent of a 1920s house.
The city’s historical commission, an advisory body with no decision-making power, recommended to Giffen last fall that he reject the Jubies’ plan. The commission also told Giffen to ask the City Council to give the code more teeth.
Giffen said he passed the commission’s concerns on by sending the City Council the commission’s meeting minutes. The matter has yet to go before the City Council.
Council President Ron Gipson said nobody has contacted him directly on changing the code.
“Everything has a due process, if things need to be changed, (Historic Everett) members need to bring it to our attention,” Gipson said last week.
Steel said it’s up to the city to fix the code. She said she is done fighting the project and will not appeal the examiner’s decision.
The property owners have a permit to relocate the 1926 Dutch Colonial home. They do not have a permit for demolition, but can easily get one, Giffen said.
“They’re committed to moving it,” Giffen said.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Feb. 15, 2012