The Spokane Valley City Council is considering adopting its own historic preservation ordinance so it can create a historic preservation program.
At the City Council meeting Tuesday evening, deputy state historic preservation officer Greg Griffith and newly appointed Spokane historic preservation officer Megan Duvall gave a presentation about how and why Spokane Valley should consider its own historic preservation program.
“We are less about the past than we are about the future,” Griffith said. “We want to make sure we can hand down important parts of our past to the future.”
Duvall, who was with the state office until she accepted the city/county job in Spokane about a month ago, explained that creating a historic preservation program is a relatively simple process that begins by adopting a city ordinance.
“The state has model ordinances you can use,” Duvall said, adding that 50 Washington cities and counties have certified historic preservation local government programs.
“Some are as small as Concrete and some are as big as Seattle,” Duval said.
The city ordinance sets up a historical preservation committee which administers the local register of historic places.
“You determine which properties qualify – you know what’s best for your community,” Duvall said.
There is a tax incentive for a structure that’s registered on a local register of historic places, and Duvall said the local registry is where preservation really happens.
“A building on the national register is not as protected as one on the local registry,” she said.
The state office already has a list of more than 200 properties in Spokane Valley that could qualify for a local historic register. These properties are reported by other state agencies and they may or may not qualify as a Spokane Valley historic listing depending on the parameters defined by a local ordinance.
Duvall mentioned Spokane’s Hillyard neighborhood as a local preservation success story.
“That area is now a historic district and it got a grant for façade preservation,” Duvall said. “They’ve done a really nice job with that.”
Council member Ed Pace asked if there are cities that do this without spending any money.
Duvall said it’s really not a costly process if there’s a good volunteer base.
“It’s mostly staff time in the beginning to get it going,” Duvall said. “We don’t require professional staff – many smaller communities rely on the city clerk as the staff.” She added that local museums and historical groups very often are involved in the historic preservation process and serve on the commission.
Mayor Dean Grafos said that to him being able to offer a tax incentive to people who buy and restore old buildings looks like an economic development tool Spokane Valley should take advantage of because its neighbors are using it.
Duvall said she’s open to investigating an interlocal agreement between Spokane and Spokane Valley as a way the two municipalities can share staff.
The City Council unanimously agreed to move ahead and investigate how to create a Spokane Valley historic preservation program.
“I think it’s pretty exciting that there’s already more than 200 structures that are inventoried,” Grafos said. “This seems like a good idea.”
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