In Coupeville, a historic home is still a home

A tweak in regulations have Coupeville leaders hoping the change will make it easier to fill historic homes.

The Coupeville Town Council approved amending the town code last Tuesday night by removing a layer of bureaucracy concerning historic homes located within the town’s commercial zone. By removing that layer, it allows owners a better chance to use historic homes for their original purpose — a residences.

Several historic homes are located within the town’s commercial zone and have been used as stores, restaurants and bed and breakfasts in recent years. However, to use those buildings as a family home, the owners had  to obtain a conditional use permit from the town, which is a process that can take months to complete.

“We should strive to use those original structures for their original purpose,” Coupeville planner Larry Kwarsick said.

He elaborated after the meeting that the town should eliminate obstacles that prevent a home from being used as a family residence.

Kwarsick cited at least three historic homes within the town’s commercial area that are currently vacant, among them the Libbey House and the former Kimo’s Island Barbecue and Teriyaki.

Prior to the code change, using a building within the commercial area for a residence was considered a non-conforming use, which sparked the need for a conditional use permit.

Kwarsick argued that such a permit could cause problems for a person who needs financing to purchase or renovate a historic home. “Non-conforming” implies a use the town is trying to eliminate and that designation might cause concern for people who make loan decisions.

Councilwoman Molly Hughes was concerned about the additional number of buildings that would be included as historic structures.

Kwarsick said the town will start using the historic structure inventory provided by the National Park Service.

“It broadens the regulatory environment of all these structures,” Kwarsick said.

In the end, the Coupeville Town Council was unanimous in deciding to approve the code change.

“It’s better for historic preservation and it’s better for the property owners,” Councilman Tom Tack said.

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