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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Browne’s Addition designated historic district by Spokane City Council

UPDATED: Tue., Sept. 24, 2019, 9:46 a.m.

Browne’s Addition won city approval Monday for the final piece in a set of new regulations aimed at preserving its history.

The Spokane City Council adopted a Historic District Overlay Zone in Browne’s Addition on Monday, placing the final stamp on a yearslong process to attempt to preserve the neighborhood’s unique character.

With the historic district in place, development of new buildings or rehabilitation of existing properties will have to comply with design standards.

“In no place does it say that you cannot build new things in Browne’s Addition … what we’re doing is for that new construction, we just want it to be contemporary and compatible with the district,” said Megan Duvall, the city’s historic preservation officer.

The historic district is a direct response to continued increase in new development and density from Browne’s Addition residents.

The city’s first neighborhood, Browne’s Addition was roiled by the demolition of three older homes on Coeur d’Alene Street in 2016. They were replaced by a Seattle-based developer with a 21-unit apartment building with a more modern aesthetic.

Rick Biggerstaff, chairman of the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council, refuted concerns that the proposal would negatively affect low-income residents and be a deterrent to development, which he said “can significantly change what makes this neighborhood special to Spokane.”

He described the law as allowing for a conversation between property owner and developer, who “should be educated about the neighborhoods.”

Kieran Sprague, representing the Spokane Homebuilders Association, expressed opposition to the ordinance and the precedent adopting the historic zone in Browne’s Addition would set.

“Going through the permitting and building process is hard enough as it is,” Sprague said.

Councilwoman Kate Burke cast the lone vote against the proposal because of what she said she believes will make it more difficult to achieve affordable housing.

Council President Ben Stuckart countered that the new apartments built in Browne’s Addition were more expensive that those they replaced.

Last year, Councilwoman Lori Kinnear sponsored legislation that allowed city neighborhoods to designate their own historic districts, which set the table for the City Council’s action on Monday.

When it finally came to a vote this summer, the historic designation won strong support from Browne’s Addition residents.

Per city code, a majority of property owners (owners of multiple properties had multiple votes) in Browne’s Addition had to vote in favor of the designation for it to pass. The city mailed out 274 ballots and when voting closed on Aug. 22, 54% of ballots had been returned in support of the designation.

An unreturned ballot was effectively counted as a no vote. Of the 174 ballots actually returned, about 82% were in favor of the designation and 18% were against it.

Though the designation sets standards for development, it’s coupled with tax incentives to property owners, such as a Special Tax Valuation and the Facade Improvement Grant program.

The Cliff-Cannon Neighborhood is expected to be the next to explore the historic designation.

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