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Landmarks Commission back in action

The Spokane Historic Landmarks Commission on Wednesday took its first official action in months.

The number of commissioners on the 11-position panel had fallen below the seven needed for taking action during monthly meetings, after Spokane city and county officials failed to appoint members. Last month the county named three members, allowing the commission to reach a quorum.

On Wednesday, the landmarks commissioners voted to approve demolition plans for portions of Hutton Elementary School, which is undergoing historic preservation of its older segments and construction of a 40,000-square-foot wing.

Commissioners also approved a design review of the new wing on which a vote was postponed since January because the commission didn’t have a quorum.

County Commissioner Al French held up county approval of appointments to the Landmarks Commission following a controversy last summer over a proposal to allow construction of a large industrial project next to the historic Sarsfield farmhouse, 5520 W. Thorpe Road.

Wemco is building its 300,000-square-foot plant next to the farmhouse in what used to be an open field. The Landmarks Commission called for more environmental review.

French said he wanted to send a message to the Landmarks Commission about the importance of economic development, including the industrial expansion.

French said Tuesday that unincorporated areas of the county also were not getting enough attention for historic preservation efforts by the landmarks program, which is operated by the city.

He said the county is prepared to increase its contribution to the city for the landmarks program with an understanding that unincorporated areas of the county would receive greater attention for preservation.

On Tuesday, county commissioners approved two joint city-county appointments to the Landmarks Commission: Jim Kolva as a representative for the central business district and Dave Shockley as a preservation and construction specialist.