WALLACE — The fate of the long-debated 3 Bank St. house in Wallace may finally be decided, as the Wallace Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6 for, 1 against Wednesday night to approve an application for demolition.
Referred to by some as “the puppy house” or “the cute house on the corner,” the 3 Bank St. house has been owned by Rick and Indy Behrendt since they acquired the property from former Wallace mayor and neighbor, Archie Hulsizer. The Behrendts made waves in the small town after they submitted an application to WPZC in mid-2016 to demolish the home. Citing the decrepit status of the more than 100-year-old structure and an inability to refurbish it, the couple planned to knock it down and replace it with grass and plants.
In other cities, getting the OK to tear down a building could be no issue. But in a city where every structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it can be a contentious subject. The Behrendts found this out after many residents voiced their concern and wished for an alternative outcome for the home.
After waiting the mandatory 180 days (as required by Wallace Historic code) and then another 30 to allow the commission to find an alternative, the Behrendts wished to press forward with the demolition.
They attended a uncommonly-packed WPZC meeting on Jan. 5, 2017, hoping to get the application approved. The small City Hall meeting room was filled with residents who spoke passionately about the town and the importance of keeping its identity intact. Alternatives to demolition were tossed around, such as forming a group of individuals to fix the building up, or having the Behrendt’s sell it to someone who would renovate it. Following the public comment period, the couple withdrew their application with the hopes that an opportunity would present itself and the house could be fixed.
Fast forward to Feb. 7, the Behrendts once again entered Wallace City Hall with the intention of having a new application for demolition approved. Represented by attorney Michael Branstetter, they told the commission that no opportunities to fix the home have been presented to them in the last year and that it was still a safety issue. Branstetter called four witnesses during his presentation to the council, a local contractor, engineer and the Behrendts themselves.
Both the contractor and the engineer made it clear to all present that the home was in complete disrepair. They detailed out a laundry list of issues including failing support beams, a non-existent foundation, extensive water damage, warping walls, mold, a hillside that is creeping into the structure, and a lack of basic amenities such as running water or electricity. To bring the home up to livable standards, the contractor said it would cost roughly $85,000 and little of the original structure could be salvaged.
With extent of the damage laid out, many in the significantly smaller crowd (compared to last time) changed their opinions during the public comment period. One Wallace resident who voiced her opposition to demolition said that she understood the problems the house had, but still wished for an alternative because of how old the building is.
WPZC Chairman David Sherman, the only one on the commission to vote against approving the application, made the point that the WPZC’s duty is to uphold the Historic code and the status of the house is not a factor in their decision-making process. Branstetter reiterated that, from his point of view, he believed that the status of the home met the conditions for demolition as stated in the P&Z code. The meeting ended with commission member David Bond motioning for approval of the application and it being approved. Commission member David Copelan was absent from the meeting and did not vote.