New board may handle Island County historic valuations

A committee that examines historic preservation projects in Ebey’s Landing could see its powers grow.

Island County is thinking about tapping the recently created Historic Preservation Commission to administer a special valuation required by state law.

Bob Peterson, director of planning and community development for Island County, said during a Wednesday morning commissioner staff session that state law requires a local board to be developed that would approve applications from owners of historic structures for a tax benefit designed to encourage people to rehabilitate old buildings.

“We need to designate a local board,” Peterson said to the three-member board. He said the county could either go with the current board that operates within Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve and Coupeville, or create a separate board.

The Historic Preservation Commission was recently created with the efforts of Island County, the town of Coupeville and the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing to help unify design guidelines within the Reserve and hopefully to streamline the review process for owners of historic homes.

Commissioner Angie Homola initially favored increasing the powers of the Ebey’s Landing board; however, Commissioner Kelly Emerson noted that the board lacks any representation from Camano Island, which is the district she serves.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson queried whether the proposed board would serve in an advisory capacity or have the authority to approve valuations.

Pederson said the board would be a decision making body. It would also have to approve a 10-year monitoring and rehabilitation plan when it approves a special valuation for a historic structure.

To determine the special valuation, the board would determine the actual cost of rehabilitation, which would have to be at least 25 percent of the assessed valuation of the property. That “cost” would be subtracted from a property’s assessed value, according to state law.

Pederson noted that Oak Harbor and Langley have similar boards.

Homola said having the preservation commission review the tax applications would provide some uniformity for people.

The commissioners want to see more information before moving forward.

“I think it would be helpful to see how other counties deal with this,” Price Johnson said.


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