Officials with Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railway want to demolish the 100-year-old Blaine Train Depot because it "no longer provides a viable function."
Those were the words of BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas as he described the railroad's reasons for shutting off utilities to the depot and seeking its demolition by the end of the year. Melonas said railroad administration have been open to restoration plans from community groups over the years, but the lack of a concrete way forward has forced the railroad to do away with the depot.
Malonas added, however, that a community group with enough funding could acquire the building from the railroad, as long as the group pays to have it moved from its current location. Melonas said the railroad has no plans for the spot once the depot is gone.
"We would like to see it preserved, but it has to be moved off the property," he said.
Blaine community development director Michael Jones said a representative from the railroad submitted a demolition permit application to the city early Tuesday afternoon. The city has yet to review the permit so Jones could not estimate how quickly the demolition might proceed.
While demolition of a building does not typically have to go through the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process, state law does contain exemptions to this rule for buildings of historical significance. Jones said the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) will decide whether the train depot fits this description.
If the depot is determined to be historical significant, Jones will decide whether the demolition will need a SEPA review. Such a review would require gathering information on how the demolition would affect numerous factors, including the surrounding environment and the state's collection of historical resources.
However, Jones cautioned the demolition process is still in the earliest of phases, and the DAHP has not yet offered comment to the city on the depot's historical significance. Jones declined to comment on how quickly BNSF could move to demolish the depot if it is not deemed historically significant.
Malonas offered no comment on the possible SEPA process for the depot.
I'm planning to work this into a more complete story with some historical information about the depot for next week's issue of The Northern Light. In the mean time, here's a story from September of last year about the feasibility of turning the depot into an operating train station.