Port Townsend keeps moratoriums on razing old homes, building new ones

PORT TOWNSEND — A moratorium on the demolition of old homes in the National Landmark Historic District and a freeze on construction of “oversize” homes will remain in place until August.

After a brief public hearing Monday evening, the Port Townsend City Council voted unanimously that the temporary moratoriums will stay in place while city staff continues to work on permanent solutions.

The demolition ordinance states that any home considered historic under city criteria and falling within the historic district cannot be demolished during the moratorium.

The National Historic Landmark District is roughly bounded by Scott, Blaine, Walker and Taft streets and the waterfront.

The ordinance on building size states that new homes in a residential area — dubbed by detractors as “McMansions” — must meet a certain ratio of lot size while the interim ordinance is in place.

The currently enforced ratio is dependent on the size of the lot with no homes over 5,500 square feet allowed to be built.

The temporary halt to the two practices was first adopted by the council on Feb. 18.

The extended moratorium on demolition does not affect three buildings in the historic district scheduled to be torn down — including two houses on Fillmore Street that the Jefferson County Historical Society recently cited as historic.

Demolition permits and State Environmental Policy Act reviews were filed before the council approved the original moratoriums in February and are unaffected, city officials said.

The State Environmental Policy Act, or SEPA, requires a building that has historical significance to undergo a review by government officials to determine the extent of that significance.

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