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City seeks to save historical house, trees

The city of Hood River is scouting the best path to save a historical house -- without putting nature in harm's way.

"I too don't like trees to be limbed, but I want to save the house so how do you balance it?" Stephen Datnoff asked the city council last week.

In December, Datnoff made the sole bid of $27,000 for the Roe-Parker House at 416 State Street. The 100-year-old Queen Anne style cottage is sitting on a lot that has been dedicated for a major expansion of the adjacent library. Although the county originally planned to move the vintage home and re-sell it to raise money for the library project, that idea did not pencil out because of a shortage of available lots within close proximity.

However, Datnoff has a vacant lot behind his existing residence at 911 Montello Avenue and is willing to spend the estimated $54,000 to move the house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the $4 million library renovation scheduled to begin in July, Datnoff would like to prevent the demolition of the dwelling but its relocation will necessitate an exception to city policy that prohibits removal of trees within its right-of-way or limbing beyond a height of 14 feet.

Dantnoff said he chose the steeper route up 7th Street because it would damage the least number of trees. After conferring with neighbors, he said there was general agreement for limbing up to 20 feet on eight or nine trees and removal of two to three others. Although he would have preferred taking the house on a smoother drive up Serpentine and down Montello from Fourth Street, Datnoff said that direction would have required trimming 32 trees.

"I didn't think this would be so complicated when I started but I'm just trying to help the community," said Datnoff, who will also absorb the cost of laying the groundwork for placement of the 1,400 square foot home.

But Datnoff has faced opposition from Catherine Kelter, owner of the Wine Sellers at the corner of Sixth and State streets. She told the city council at the March 11 meeting that she was worried the old maple tree in front of her business could not withstand the severe pruning necessary to remove the fiber optic line running through its branches. Datnoff is seeking to have the line lowered, intact, to the ground along State Street so that he can forego the $8,200 cost of clipping and resplicing it.

"The house can be cut in two and put back together again but if the tree is cut in two it will be gone and it's such a lovely tree," said Kelter.

However, Dantoff told officials the expenses for the project were already escalating and he estimated that piecing the house back together would cost more than it was worth.

"If it's a choice between the tree and an historic house, particularly since the tree may not die, I think the house should be saved," said Councilor Chuck Haynie.

Kelter also raised concerns over the safety of the steep route chosen by Datnoff, but he reassured city officials that he had conferred with three house movers who said the Roe-Parker house could be hauled up the incline without danger.

The city is seeking a "win-win" solution by asking Sprint to donate dollars from its community fund for the cost of re-splicing the fiber optic lines.

"I would certainly think there's an avenue to get that line dropped without cutting the tree," said Councilor Andrea Klaas.

While all of these details are being ironed out, Dantoff said he will continue working on his current home, a 1906 house he bought dilapidated in 1983 and had authentically restored enough by 1987 to have listed on the National Register of Historic Places. He said the work on that 3,000 square foot dwelling is within several thousand dollars of completion and he may sell it and move into the Roe-Parker house so that he can devote full energies toward its rehabilitation.

"I have to see how it feels, I just don't know yet," said Datnoff.

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