A county commission ruled last week that Island Landmarks can keep a fence up at the Mukai farmhouse for at least six more months.
The King County Landmarks Commission granted Island Landmarks, the nonprofit that owns the historic farmhouse and garden, a Certificate of Appropriateness that allows it keep a temporary deer fence up at the site until next January, at which point it must be removed or a new, approved fence erected.
Island Landmarks, headed by part-time Vashon resident Mary Matthews, put up the fence without the commission’s approval last year and applied with the county in May to keep it in place for one more year for security purposes. The Landmarks Commission voted last week to allow it to stay for six months.
“They were sort of giving her the benefit of the doubt that there could be some security issues with the property, and that seemed like a reasonable solution while she attempts to find other security alternatives,” said Todd Scott, a staff architect on the Landmark Commission’s design review committee.
Critics of Island Landmarks, however, say the fence isn’t needed and is one more thing that limits access to the historic site.
Several members of Friends of Mukai, the group seeking to bring the property into new ownership, testified at a Landmarks Commission hearing in Seattle on Tuesday, June 25, saying the fence should not be allowed to remain.
Glenda Person, a Friends of Mukai board member, said in her testimony that security hasn’t been a problem at the site and any potential wrongdoers could easily get past the deer fence that’s there. She said the fence looked unsightly and questioned why Matthews would be “rewarded” when the fence wasn’t supposed to go up without approval in the first place.
“If anything, it adds to a sense of neglect, not security,” she said.
In the application for the Certificate of Appropriateness, however, officials with Island Landmarks wrote that there have been ongoing security concerns at the site just outside Vashon town. The nonprofit installed a black deer fence last year after the Friends of Mukai, believing they had legally taken control of the Island Landmarks board, announced they would hold an open house at the site.
“At this time, IL (Island Landmarks) realized that the facility had to be protected and secured; thus the deer fencing was installed as a temporary measure,” the application reads.
In the application, Island Landmarks says it hopes a permanent fence with a design that complements the site will eventually be installed.
“The overall security picture has improved slightly, but the homeless, drug dealers, and vandals are still a problem,” it says.
Scott said the design review committee originally recommended that the fence be allowed to stay up for a year, but the Landmarks Commission, upon hearing testimonies last Tuesday, shortened the certificate to six months.
Should Island Landmarks wish to install a permanent fence, Scott said, the nonprofit must submit an application and design to the commission for consideration.