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Coupeville aims to protect more historic buildings

Concerns are rising over how new historical regulations will affect Coupeville property owners.

Town officials proposed expanding the historic overlay zone, which will increase the number of buildings that are protected from 52 to 137.

The spike in the number of structures included in the zone has some in the town worried that not enough has been done to notify property owners of the pending change.

Coupeville resident Doug McFayden said people should know of the change and have a chance to argue for or against the new regulations. He was one of 16 people who attended a public meeting Tuesday night at the Coupeville Recreation Hall.

“The difficulty is meshing people’s personal property and the new regulations,” McFayden said.

In an interview after the meeting, Larry Kwarsick, town planning director, stressed that the town already has a historic overlay district and the proposed expansion affects only homes within town limits.

He added the proposed area will capture all of the historic structures and associated buildings in town.

The buildings in the district were identified more than 30 years ago, and the list of structures was reviewed in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s.

Kwarsick said the buildings within the boundary are the primary historic resources in Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. One of the goals of the zone is to provide protections and encourage upkeep of historic structures while minimizing impacts on daily life.

The list of buildings included in the zone are also listed under the town’s demolition protection ordinance.

Once on the expanded list, owners of the homes may have to go before a historic preservation commission should they want to make any alteration to a structure.

Kwarsick added that building owners within the historical district could apply for tax relief. There’s a proposal asking the county to add cultural resources as an option to the Public Benefit Rating System. The rating system is a points-based tax discount program that protects natural, agricultural and forest resources of a property. Basically the more points a homeowner earns, the larger the discount they receive on their tax bill. The discounted amount is then shifted to the remaining property owners in Island County.

The proposed expansion of the historic overlay district is one of a number of changes to unify design regulations between Coupeville and the parts of the county within Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve.

Several public meetings have already taken place in the town and county level.

Kwarsick said the town, the county and the National Park Service have been partners, but working independently, to protect the Reserve since its inception. The new initiative being developed by the entities is intended to unify processes and standards property owners would have to follow.

The new regulations would eliminate Coupeville’s Design Review Board and the county’s Historical Review Committee. They would be replaced by a single Historic Preservation Commission, which would review projects within the reserve.

Kwarsick said the commission would review applications that would alter or demolish historic buildings along with other projects, such as removing a non-historic aspect of a building.

The new regulations will add predictability and a timely review process, Kwarsick said.

Coupeville held a public meeting Tuesday to talk about parts of the regulations that apply within city limits. Kwarsick and Mayor Nancy Conard touched upon changes to parking and sign regulations along with the expansion of the historic overlay district.

The town will hold a second public meeting Tuesday, Aug. 18, to discuss rules that affect both the town and the reserve. Kwarsick said the meeting will cover new design standards, the unified code and the Public Benefit Ratings System.

The Coupeville and Island County planning commissions will hold a public hearing Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the Coupeville Recreation Hall. They may adopt the new regulations.

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