County expands scope of landmarks commission

By Todd Matthews, Editor

Pierce County Council yesterday approved an amendment to an ordinance that redefines the county’s Landmarks Commission, and increases the number of people who serve on the commission.
The action changes the title of the Landmarks Commission to the “Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission.” It also increases the number of members from nine to eleven, adding an archivist to a team of commissioners that includes a historian, architect, archaeologist, and other individuals who have a professional or avocational interest in historic preservation.
The news could bolster the importance of historic preservation on the county level, particularly at a time when advocates worry about whether funds set aside for historic preservation could be re-allocated to help balance a deficit in the county’s budget.
In 2005, the Legislature enacted a law that ordered one dollar of a five-dollar surcharge for each document recorded by the Pierce County auditor be deposited in a fund to be used at the discretion of the county’s landmarks commission to promote historical preservation and programs.
Between 2005 and 2006, the fund collected $612,000. Currently, it’s estimated value is approximately $900,00.
The Pierce County budget is expected to be finalized and adopted this afternoon.
“I think it’s an excellent idea to expand the scope and efforts to record our history better,” said Tacoma Historical Society member Jim Hoard, who testified during a public comment period at yesterday’s meeting. Hoard and other historic preservation advocates bemoaned the lack of information and historical records available at the county level.
Pierce County Councilmember Tim Farrell, a long-time supporter of local history who championed the new designation and increase in the number of commissioners, commented, “In the past, we have not been the best stewards in the county,” said Farrell.
Councilmember Shawn Bunney agreed. “Hopefully this will jump-start the process and get a good inventory to road map our way to historic preservation in the future,” said Bunney.