The volunteer Land Bank Commission evaluates and approves potential projects at its monthly meetings which are publicly advertised and open to all. In the case of the Kilpatrick property at 328 Caines St. in Friday Harbor, this was first discussed at the Commission meeting last September and in every meeting since for seven consecutive months. In the February and March meetings there was an advertised public hearing on an amended budget which included this project. The was followed by a public hearing in front of the County Council to approve the budget on March 26th. By this time we had secured an appraisal and had executed a purchase and sale agreement with the seller. The last step in the process is for the Council to accept the deed which is followed by the actual closing of the transaction. This last step, which is typically pro forma, happened at the Council meeting on Lopez this week. Overall the public had 11 opportunities over a 7-month period to comment.
This project will permanently protect Driggs Historic Park on Argyle Avenue which is currently only open to the public via a revocable recreational license. In addition, the Driggs House, where the Land Bank office is, was constructed in 1896 and is, in fact, on the cover of the town’s historic preservation manual. While the Land Bank will continue to operate from this location for the foreseeable future; if the property is sold the house would be encumbered by an historic preservation easement.
With regard to the Land Bank’s role in helping preserve the lower Argyle neighborhood you are correct in that we purchased a historic preservation easement on one home in 2002. At that time, the remaining houses in the neighborhood were at risk of being torn down for new construction. Additionally, the lots at the corner of Argyle and Malcolm Street were purchased with the goal of placing an historic preservation easement on them to ensure whatever might be built on the property fit with the character of the neighborhood. This easement is now about to be put in place. Following the initial Land Bank involvement several individuals purchased and/or restored, or even moved, historic houses on their lots. They are absolutely to be commended for their efforts. The community should be proud to see the heritage embodied by these structures alive and well whoever the owner or by whatever mechanism. We are all better off for it.
Lincoln Bormann, Director San Juan County Land Bank