POULSBO — A flood-prone house next to Dogfish Creek will soon be gone.
Workers from KCB Environmental were hard at work Aug. 7 removing asbestos and other hazardous materials from the house at 19159 8th Ave. NE. Once they’re done, the house is slated to be torn down “in the next month or so,” Poulsbo Public Works Director Mike Lund said.
It’s taken about five years to get to this point.
Back in 2012, Barry Loveless, at the time the city’s public works director, said the city was interested in buying the property to remove the house and do stream restoration there.
At that time, the house needed a new roof; the paint may have had lead in it; the structure was located within feet of the south fork of Dogfish Creek, a salmon-bearing stream; and the basement was prone to flooding.
Two years later, Ruth deMille was the listing agent for the property. The house was in foreclosure by that time. “My first recommendation is, this should go to the city,” deMille said in that Aug. 19 interview. “The highest and best use would be to turn it into a park. Tear it down and call it good.”
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson was interested. If the city could acquire 19159 8th Ave., it could improve fish passage under 8th Avenue — it’s currently a small culvert that frequently causes the creek to overflow — and the city could do stream restoration work on the property, where the stream naturally deltas.
The house is 1,507 square feet, with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a 1,045-square-foot basement. It sits on a .35 acre lot. The assessed value of the house peaked at $293,620 in 2008, according to Kitsap County Assessor’s online records. By 2014, the assessed value dropped at $110,400.
On March 4, 2015, the City Council voted unanimously to buy the property for $1, with plans to remove the house, restore the portion of salmon-bearing stream that flows across the property and, at some point, replace the culvert through which the creek flows under 8th Avenue.
However, subsequent council minutes show that bids to do the asbestos abatement and demolition kept coming in higher than the city felt it could afford.
Several months ago, the decision was finally made to go forward with the asbestos abatement on the property and then have Public Works employees tear the old house down. It’s all part of an effort “to make the center area more attractive,” Mayor Becky Erickson said. She said the site will ultimately become part of an expanded Centennial Park.
Parks and Recreation Director Mary McCluskey said, “First, we have to get the building down.”
History of the property
An early owner of the property, Tom Halvorson, applied to the city in 1910 for a gravel pit on the property “and in the subsequent years [he sold] a lot of gravel to the city and was also working on the city streets,” according to Judy Driscoll of the Poulsbo Historical Society and Museum.
“Now, I’m wondering if that is how the flat area where public works is located was developed,” Driscoll said in an earlier interview. “It would certainly make sense that his gravel could have been mined out of that spot and, with a creek running through there, gravel would have been plentiful.”
Driscoll said the house was moved to the site, possibly in the mid- or late-1950s. Marge Smallbeck said the house was not there when she lived next door in the 1950s. She said her father bought the property where the house and the public works yard are in 1951 or 1952 and “there was nothing there except the creek, which flooded all the time.”
Turns out, building or placing a house so close to Dogfish Creek wasn’t such a good idea. The channel is narrow on the property, and the house’s basement and the adjacent city public works yard regularly flood during high-water winter months.
The house couldn’t be built that close to Dogfish Creek today; the city’s critical areas ordinance requires a 200-foot setback. Nor could it have been easily restored since any restoration work might require additional review — by the state and the Suquamish Tribe — because Dogfish Creek is a salmon-bearing stream, and the state’s fisheries are co-managed by state and tribal governments.