Grouppushes historic preservation for downtown

Published on Thu, Aug 18, 2005 by Meg Olson

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Group pushes historic
preservation for downtown

By Meg Olson

A proposal to enhance the historic flavor of downtown Blaine is being developed alongside the city’s comprehensive plan revisions.

“Blaine is starting to slowly flourish and look at aspects of its character and how to bring out the best in Blaine,” said Kathleen Capson, chair of the Blaine neighborhood association’s historic district committee. “How do we encourage historic restoration, preserve and protect our heritage?”

Capson said her group had submitted boundaries for a historic district based on a walking tour series developed in 1996. “It’s basically the really old part of Blaine first settled by four families,” she said - Cain, Boblett, Miller and Kingsley.

“Based on the research we did for the walking tour, that area encompasses about 95 percent of the historic properties in Blaine,” Capson said, adding the remaining five percent were mostly clustered around the entrance to Peace Arch State Park and would likely be removed when the port of entry expands.

Within the boundaries of the proposed district Capson said they are working on design standards and development recommendations to submit to the city.

“We’re trying to figure out how the historic district would work within different zones,” Capson said.

The area covers Marine Drive, which city planners are calling Cain’s Wharf, the central business district, a portion of the lettered streets, and most of the residential areas between the freeway and the harbor.

Capson said enhancing the historic flavor of the area started with turn-of-the-century design guidelines and antique lighting downtown, and their proposal hoped to spread the flavor into the nearby neighborhoods. “We’re looking for a nice blending so the downtown and the neighborhoods are flourishing together,” she said.

Researching other communities with a historic district Capson said they had found guidelines for lighting, buffers between high and low use areas, interpretive signage, sidewalks with shade and benches to increase walkability, and recommendations for building new homes that fit in with the existing historic flavor of the area. “For things that are aesthetic it’s pretty much just recommendations,” Capson said.
Information on architectural styles, paint color, and other historically compatible details would be available at city hall, and Capson said most people buying in the central Blaine neighborhoods would choose to blend in. “People are coming to Blaine for the feel of an old-fashioned neighborhood,” she said.

The historic district is traditionally an area of single-family homes and Capson said to keep its old-fashioned flavor it needed to be entrenched in city zoning laws. At the July 25 city council meeting she spoke in support of an additional six-month extension to the already year-old moratorium on multi-family homes in the area. “It’s an opportunity for Blaine to recognize this before we lose more and more of the historic homes, buildings, churches and buildings to development,” she told council members. Despite opposition from three property owners who felt the city had enough time to review the area, council members approved extending the ban until the comprehensive plan review is complete in the fall. “I don’t think we can give up on this now,” said Bonnie Onyon, as she also encouraged planners to swiftly get property owners out of the limbo the moratorium put them in.

Mayor John Liebert said changes to city zoning as part of the comprehensive plan review would benefit some people and not others, and that made it critical that the public attend the proposed series of community and neighborhood meetings that will guide the review process. “It’s critical people testify,” he said.