The deadline for public comments on the demolition of the Des Moines Historic Landmark is June 2

From our partner site The Waterland Blog:

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation wants remind residents that the deadline for the public comment summit on the future of the historic Des Moines Masonic Retirement Home is June 2, 2022.

Like The Waterland Blog previously reportedthe City of Des Moines released a SEPA Significant Determination in May regarding Zenith Properties LLC’s application for a demolition permit for the 27-acre property located since 1926 at 23660 Marine View Drive South.

Due to the nature of the application, the applicant – Zenith Properties LLC – was required to complete a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) checklist. The City of Des Moines has determined that the proposed action is likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and requires Zenith to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIA) as part of its application.

Scoping is the first step in the EIA process and includes a public comment period, which begins Tuesday, May 3 and runs until Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. PST (Give feedback here). A minimum public comment period of 21 days is required by state law. The City of Des Moines has chosen to extend the comment period to 30 days.

NOTE: The comment form does NOT appear to require commenters to reside in Des Moines, WA.

The City will also host a virtual public meeting on Tuesday, May 17 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. PST. Individuals wishing to provide verbal feedback at the meeting must register in advance here.

Here are more curatorial testimonials:

The City of Des Moines has drafted three alternatives for public comment by June 2, 2022:

1. Historical preservation and potential future adaptive reuse – This alternative assumes the preservation and structural stabilization of existing structures on the site, resulting in a condition that may allow for potential future adaptive reuse, including a cost-benefit analysis that incorporates a reasonably available historic preservation program and fiscal incentives .

2. Demolition – This alternative assumes the demolition of all existing structures and vacant buildings on the site as proposed.

3. No action – This alternative assumes a continuation of existing site conditions, including maintaining existing structures as vacant and unused – and serves as a benchmark for comparison of other alternatives, as required by SEPA.


The Washington Trust believes that the scope of the EIS should rightly be expanded beyond the current scope distributed in the city notice. We have identified several concerns with the current scope, described as follows:

1. Candidate’s stated objectives
As noted in Proposalthe petitioner “indicated having five objectives for the project to demolish the existing structures”.

a. Objective 2 states “Eliminate potential hazardous/hazardous conditions on site due to existing structural condition. The asbestos report submitted from July 2019 concludes that “None of the materials sampled contained asbestos” and the lead paint inspection submitted from November 2019 recommends hand washing, biological monitoring and hazard communication, safety and respirator training regarding lead exposure under typical construction working conditions. No assessments were submitted to support the claim of structural hazards and unsafe conditions.

b. Objectives 3, 4 and 5 have been detailed separately, but can be combined to read “prevent further intrusion, vandalism and graffiti on the existing structure”. These goals can easily be achieved in the short term by securing the property with construction fencing and a variety of security measures typical of staging property development and management. The long-term solution is to rehabilitate the structure for its active use. Demolition of existing structures as proposed is the ultimate form of vandalism and is contrary to the stewardship that is assumed with the prevention of trespassing, vandalism and graffiti in and around these structures.

2. Comprehensive Des Moines City Plan
the Full map of Des Moines was adopted by City Council in June 2015 by Ordinance No. 1623 as “a 20-year plan that articulates our community’s vision and values ​​for how we will develop in the future”, in accordance to the State Growth Management Act of 1990. The future of the Landmark on the Sound site addresses several values ​​and goals as part of the plan:

a. Land Use Objective 1“Preserves and enhances the quality of life and diverse residential neighborhoods in the community, and serves them with vibrant business districts, open spaces, recreational facilities, affordable housing, and other supportive land uses.” The Masonic Home site alone has historically and continues to feature open space, recreational facilities, affordable housing (such as 200 retirement home units), and other supportive land uses. The proposal for its demolition without public redevelopment plans that could guarantee both more and better existing functions is counterproductive to the City’s objectives.

b. Land Use Objective 2“Promote a mix of land uses that helps diversify the local economy, reduce poverty and improve the community by attracting new businesses, salaried family jobs, new municipal revenues and housing choices.” The rehabilitation and reactivation of a site which already has so much visual, architectural, cultural and historical value – particularly of a scale comparable to that of the Masonic House – has proven time and again to attract the functions called upon in this goal.

vs. Housing Objective 1“Encourage the development, preservation or replacement of affordable housing stock for all economic segments of the community.” Preservation must first be considered adequately for the site, before even considering a replacement, for which no plans have been made public.

D. Housing Objective 2“Encourage and support a variety of housing opportunities for people with special needs, especially those with age, health or disability-related issues.”The property was the former home of retired masons and already offers several interventions that help people with age, health or disability issues, including indoor and outdoor ramp access, large common areas and retail, dining and even medical facilities.

e. Housing Objective 3“Protect existing and planned residential areas from negative impacts associated with incompatible land uses. » The property has been historically used and still has space for 200 units, including large common areas.

f. Housing Objective 4 “Encourage the development of an appropriate mix of housing choices through innovative land use and well-designed regulations. » To propose demolition without first considering rehabilitation and then providing replacement plans is neither innovative nor a well thought out plan.

g. “Des Moines must plan for 3,480 additional housing units” – The proposal to demolish 200 housing units, including large common areas, without public redevelopment plans that could guarantee both more and better of the existing housing stock is counterproductive to the City’s objectives.

h. “Des Moines must plan for 5,800 additional new jobs” – The proposed demolition of structures that once employed workers in industries: hospitality, retail, leisure, medical and aged care, and civic/religious/non-profit – without public redevelopment plans that could guarantee the more and better times these displaced industries are counterproductive to the city’s goals.

3. Sustainability and climate change
The scoping notice makes no mention of the climate impact resulting from the demolition of the historic Masonic House or additional structures to be built on the site. It is estimated that up to 40% of the waste deposited in landfills comes from building construction and demolition projects. This ignores the embodied energy present in the nearly century-old five-story, 130,000-square-foot building; the energy used to construct the building initially would result in an estimated minimum of 20,000 tons of building materials transported and deposited in a landfill. A climate impact assessment of the proposed demolition (and potential new construction) is essential before proceeding.

The questions above can be used to request an extension of the intended scope of the HIA.

More information, including sample letters, is here:

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