November 30, 1998
DUVALL--When members of the local arts community decided several years ago that they wanted to save the old Thayer barn for future use as a cultural center, they knew they faced a daunting task.
The former dairy barn, on the west side of SR-203 at the south edge of town, would have to be moved from where it is now located to another site on the property. And an architect who studied the condition of the aging structure estimated it would cost $500,000 for the move and renovation.
The barn, remarkable for the buffalo painted on its side, had been given to the city by the Newhall-Jones Company which owns the 31 acres, with the stipulation that it be moved out of the way of development planned along the road. The land was zoned for mixed use after it was annexed into the city about a year ago.
Feasibility studies indicated the move and remodel were possible, but now development regulations enacted for the area could send the entire project down the drain.
"The development regulations allow no more than 68 units on the property," said Arts Commission chair Sunny Ruthchild. "But Newhall-Jones says it is not economically feasible to develop it for fewer than 92 structures."
Ruthchild, who was among those who wrote the development regulations, said the City Council has agreed to consider the "dilemma." She said that if Gary Jones, Newhall-Jones secretary-treasurer, is limited to 68 units, he may decide not to do anything with the property. In that case, the barn could not be moved and would continue to deteriorate.
"The barn won't make it five more years without help," she said. "After then, it won't be habitable."
The Commission received approval for a $40,000 cultural facilities grant from King County earlier this year and will be applying for another grant this week.
"If the request is approved, we want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row," she said. "But we don't want the barn to be held hostage. We don't want a decision based only on the barn. But sometimes you give a little and get a lot."
Besides the commercial development, Jones is interested in building an artisan community adjacent to where the barn would be moved to, which is the extreme northwest corner of the property, she said. The art community may consist of multi-level units with one floor reserved for residences and the other for marketing and studio space.
"While we are asking the council to allow this to progress, we want to make sure rampant development is not happening and that everything grows gracefully with a well-designed future," Ruthchild said. "This is a beautiful piece of property. We really don't want a lot of industrial plants on it that may pollute the river."