Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Preservation

Save homes on Ericksen

If city staff has its way we can soon say goodbye to one of seven century-old houses located on the east side of Ericksen Avenue, opposite the B.I. Historical Museum.

These were the homes of workers at the Hall Brothers Shipyard, which moved to Eagle Harbor from Port Blakely in 1903. One of the shipyard’s founders was Winslow Hall, our town’s namesake. Today these homes provide residents and tourists with a link to our past as well as providing commercial and residential uses for their owners. Up until now, owners have preserved these houses. Now one owner has applied to the city to demolish a historical home at 216 Ericksen.

After some discussion, the city’s Design Review Board – comprised of island citizens – denied the application based on language in the island’s Comprehensive Plan (Goal W 2.9) and the Zoning Code (18.040.010). These goals and regulations pertain to the Ericksen Avenue Overlay District, which was created to “preserve the unique and historical features of the neighborhood and should provide for a mix of residential and small-scale nonresidential development.”

These two documents also state that: “Historic (pre-1920) single-family residential structures on Ericksen may be converted to nonresidential use. However, any additions to the structure must be added to the rear and must be compatible with the character of the original structure.”

But the director of city planning has recently drafted a memo which appears to interpret these statements in the zoning ordinance and comprehensive plan as allowing the original structure (the pre-1920 house) to be demolished, thus subverting the original intent in these two documents.

In making its decision, the board consulted the design guidelines for the Ericksen Avenue district and a letter from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission (chaired by a co-signer below, with another having served as past chair) recommending retaining the old home at 216 Ericksen.

However, if the new interpretation by the city is submitted, it will override the board’s recommendation and seal the fate of one of the houses, and over time, probably the other six homes of the shipyard workers.

This would be a great loss to the community, both to its residents and the cultural tourists who come to see the houses. Please tell council members it is urgent that they take this matter up now. Such an important interpretation should be under the council’s jurisdiction – not the city staff’s.

The intent of the framers of the comprehensive plan, the zoning ordinance, and of the review board was and is to preserve our island’s significant history!

Jerry Elfendahl, Tom Greene, Debbi Lester, Charles Schmid, Will Shopes, Barbara Winther

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