The Hood River City Council went out on a limb on March 25 to save the historical Roe-Parker house from demolition.
By a vote of 3-1 (Councilors Carrie Nelson and Linda Rouches were absent), city leaders gave permission to allow the vintage home to be moved intact, which necessitates the removal of three trees within the city right-of-way. It also requires the severe pruning of the old maple near the corner of Sixth and State streets, a proposal that has drawn several citizen protests.
"I'm not in favor of removing the trees, the house can be cut apart and it can be moved in pieces," said Councilor Andrea Klaas, who cast the sole dissenting vote.
However, Stephen Datnoff, who made the only bid of $27,000 for the turn-of-the century home, had previously informed city officials that he was already planning to spend $55,000 just to relocate the house. He said it would cost more than it was worth to take the dwelling apart and then repair that damage.
Datnoff faced objections over his proposal that the city allow the top half of the State Street maple to be chopped off so that the cable lines running through its branches could be lowered to the ground. By driving the house over the lines, Datnoff said he could save the $8,200 cost for their cutting and resplicing.
The city council had tabled the issue at its March 11 meeting to find out whether Sprint would absorb the cost for the line handling. However, Lynn Guenther, city manager, learned that the expenses would actually be closer to $22,000 since the lines were not fiber optic as Datnoff had first believed, but actually contained 200-300 individual cable pairs. Guenther said he was also informed by Sprint officials that the typical donation for community projects was $500 and the relocation of the home by a private party did not qualify.
After reviewing that new information, Councilor Chuck Haynie said he believed the price of losing the Queen Anne-style cottage forever was too high to save the tree from pruning. Haynie's decision was based, in part, on the expert opinion of an arborist that the tree would likely go into shock for several years but stood a good chance of recovering since it had previously been cut. He was joined in his stand by Mayor Paul Cummings and both Councilors Paul Thompson and Scott Reynier.
"I just don't think it balances out and I think we need to do what it takes to save the house," said Reynier.
However, the council conceded to Klaas request that a "mitigation" tree be planted next to the maple in case it didn't survive and that new trees be planted to replace the three species slated for removal. In addition, the city decided to amend its policy to allow limbing or removal of trees within its right-of-way if necessary for the relocation of historic buildings.
The Roe-Parker house is currently sitting on a lot that has been dedicated for a major expansion of the adjacent library. Datnoff plans to take the 1,400 square foot structure up 7th Street to a vacant lot behind his existing residence at 911 Montello Avenue. To accomplish that task he also is being allowed to limb up to 20 feet on seven trees along the route. Since renovation of the library is scheduled to begin in July, Datnoff said he welcomes any and all help to remove the fencing around the home and relocate the shrubbery during the spring planting season.
In other action on March 25, the city council decided to investigate the costs for hiring a public relations firm to help educate voters about the need for a $500,000 bond levy on the Nov. 5 General Election ballot.
Guenther said an outreach program would help citizens understand that the existing fleet of aging service equipment was becoming inoperable. He believed the two past failures to gain the special tax on property had failed largely because the city had failed to deliver that message.
City officials directed Guenther to gather more information and bring it before them for review at the April 25 regular meeting. At that time they will continue the debate about whether to move ahead with the proposal.