The Washington City Council Monday tabled plans to raze a 165-year-old home at 320 Lafayette St. in Downtown Washington following the pleas of two organizations.
Last month, the council agreed to include funds in the 2018-19 budget to raze the Anton Jasper House, located at Fourth and Lafayette streets.
But Downtown Washington Inc. and its sister organization Historic Washington Foundation are now imploring the council to spare the home, the sixth oldest building in Washington, and give someone an opportunity to purchase and renovate it.
Ultimately, the council voted to table the demolition, at the recommendation of Lamb, after establishing a minimum price on the bids and requirements for renovation.
Bridgette Kelch, executive director of Downtown Washington Inc., said in 2015 the council agreed to have the home appraised and then allow for the public to bid on the purchasing the home, with some stipulations.
“We are hoping that you reconsider and allow the public to bid on the structure,” Kelch said. “If nobody is interested in the bid process, then obviously move forward with the demolition.”
One of the stipulations, if there is a public bid that is accepted, would be that work to renovate the home begin within 90 days.
The council voted in closed session to budget funds to demolish the home.
Councilman Steve Sullentrup questioned where Kelch heard of the demo plan, considering the vote was conducted in closed session.
Kelch noted that she received several phone calls.
City Administrator Darren Lamb added that the demolition plan was placed on the agenda for the Washington Historic Preservation Commission to review July 16.
Councilwoman Susan Watermann noted that the vote was included in the minutes of the June council meeting, which is required of roll call votes.
The Washington Historic Preservation Commission must review plans for buildings designated historic in Washington, but the commission has no authority to prevent the demolition of the buildings.
Because Washington is a certified local government through the state historic preservation commission, there is a mandatory review of plans for historic locations and voluntary compliance by the city, according to Carolyn Witt, commission chairman.
“While we have absolutely no teeth, we can be unhappy about something like this,” Witt said. “We hate to lose another building.
“If you put it out for bid and there’s no interest,” she added, “I think everybody will realize it’s a done deal and you won’t hear any more from us . . . I think it is a very fair thing to do.”
According to Kelch, since 1950, 70 percent of Downtown Washington buildings have been demolished; and since 2005 — in the ZIP code of 63090 — 75 historic building have been razed.
Lamb noted that when appraised, it was determined that the home had no value.
Washington residents Angela Hill, Ralph Gildehaus and John Vietmeier commented to the council that they all have, or are now, renovating historic homes in Washington. They asked that the council allow for the public to be given an opportunity to bid on the Jasper House.
“We moved to Washington because of the feel of it,” said Hill. “I really don’t think another parking lot will give you that feel.”
Historic buildings add to the charm of downtown, said Gildehaus, who renovated a historic home and runs a bed and breakfast there now.
“Once they are gone they cannot be put back,” he said, “Give it a chance. . . let the public stand up and say yes or no.”
According to Lamb, the appraisal indicated the structure is not worth anything and the appraisal the city was given was based on the lot.
Councilmen Jeff Patke and Mark Hidritch stated that the council was told that the building is “uninhabitable”
Watermann made a motion, seconded by Councilwoman Gretchen Pettet, to not demolish the building and put it out for bid. That motion failed with a 5-2 vote. Councilman Joe Holtmeier was not at the meeting.
“Is it that simple?” asked Patke. “There’s got to be stipulations.”
Following the vote on the Watewmann motion, a new motion was made and approved that included some stipulations to the bid process.
Meeting in 2015
Pettet said she reviewed the council minutes from the 2015 meeting when the issue was addressed, the council recommended adding architectural restrictions and to put the building out for bid.
“My discontent at this point is we simply didn’t say what we said we were going to do,” she said. “. . . I don’t think anybody is going to want it, based on what we have heard anecdotally — but do we say what we are going to do or do we just make empty promises?”
According to Kelch, renovating the Jasper House is in line with the city’s comprehensive plan.
She added that Downtown Washington residents make “sizable contributions to the health and stability of the downtown economy.”
Kelch noted that from one couple living downtown, there is an average $19,819 annual economic impact on the downtown.