Turn words into actionPublished 5:18pm Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Washington’s City Council, during its meeting Monday, did more than just listen to residents’ concerns about a house in the city’s historic district. The council took action based, in part, on what those residents had to say about the deteriorating house at 312 Water St.
There’s no doubt the house’s condition continues to worsen. Its out-of-state owner does little, if anything, to protect the structure from further deterioration. The porch, according to the city’s chief building inspector, poses an imminent danger.
The council voted 3-2 for the city to proceed with imposing civil penalties against the owner of the house and removing the front porch from the house. The council’s action spares the house from demolition, at least for now.
That’s exactly what several speakers asked for during the public-comment section of the council’s meeting Monday. They want the house spared, saying that demolishing it would detract from the city’s historic district. Some speakers said sparing the house from the wrecking ball would allow time for someone to buy the house, if the present owner can be persuaded to sell it. The problem is that the house’s owner shows no interest in selling the house. Several speakers said they would like to buy the house or wanted buy it in the past.
There’s no doubt the house needs major work. But if someone is able to buy it, restoring it makes sense for several reasons. Restoring the house means the historic district retains a significant building. A restored house, with its increased value, would add more tax revenue to the city’s coffers. A restored house would be preferable to the empty lot that would be created if the house were ever demolished.
But keep in mind that if the house’s present owner refuses to sell it and allows the house to continue to deteriorate, the house could become a threat to public safety. If that happens — hopefully, that will not happen — the city would have little choice but to address that safety issue. There comes a time when the public’s safety takes precedence over historic preservation.
Continue the efforts to acquire and restore the house. Turn Monday night’s words into action. The house and city would benefit from the right action taking place.