Attempts to demolish the Levi Henkle House and redevelop the parcel at the corner of Northwest Second Street and Tyler Avenue have been derailed for the time being by the Corvallis Historic Resources Commission.
Commissioners voted 5-0 after a two-hour public hearing at their Aug. 13 meeting to deny the demolition application submitted by developer Mark Rose. The commission hearing was required because the house is on the local historic register.
Five people provided written testimony and seven more spoke at the hearing, said Sarah Johnson, senior planner for the city of Corvallis.
Testimony was split, Johnson said, “but the majority of people testified in support of the application to demolish the structure, citing the deterioration of the building, problems with people accessing the building, and rats and other vermin that have moved into the neighborhood that they believe originate from the structure.
"Those in opposition asserted that the structure is not as deteriorated as it looks from the outside, that it is salvageable, and that the deterioration has occurred as a result of the negligence of the property owner.”
The commission noted four “findings” that led to the decision: that the house maintains historic integrity, that the deterioration of the structure has occurred because of the action of inaction of the property owner, that the applicant failed to prove that moving the structure is not feasible and that the applicant did not comply with all of the applicable criteria in the demolition ordinance.
Rose said that he plans to appeal the decision to the City Council. Johnson estimated that the council likely will hold a public hearing to hear the appeal in late September or early October.
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Demolition of historic properties is rare in Corvallis, although Johnson noted that two historic houses on a single lot were demolished in 2006. Johnson said she is unaware of a previous denial of a demolition permit for an historic property.
“We have had very few requests over the years to demolish a designated historic structure, and most of them have been garages and not the house/primary building,” Johnson said.
The circa 1898 Italianate structure is named for Levi Henkle, who came to Benton County from Iowa in 1853. Henkle sold it in 1907 and it has gone through numerous owners since. It is not clear when it was last occupied, and the house and grounds are in an obvious state of disrepair. The complaint record with the city starts in 1997 and includes a permit that authorized the demolition of a carport/garage that was issued in 2001.
The Gazette-Times has been writing about the house since December 2014, when it was featured in a report on abandoned houses in Corvallis.
The property is zoned “central business” said Dale Kern, a broker with Commercial Associates, who handled the listing. Kern said that a buyer could conceivably run a business on the first floor and live on the second floor.
“It’s a great zone, very versatile,” said Kern said, while adding that one of the things that makes the property attractive is that most of the similar properties in the downtown area are leasable but few are for sale.