Farrell House draws concerns

Some worry about plan to use historic Camas home for events; owner cites misunderstanding

By Ray Legendre, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

Public meeting

What: Discussion about Farrell House and owner Heidi Curley’s vision.

When: 7 p.m. today.

Where: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 1206 N.E. Birch St., Camas.

Owner Heidi Curley’s plans to use the landmark Farrell House on a limited basis for small outdoor and indoor events has created a big fuss among some of her neighbors.

But Curley says neighborhood residents’ fears about undue noise and traffic in their residential neighborhood are born out of a misunderstanding. She plans to live in the house with her three children, she said, and hopes to occasionally host weddings and other small indoor gatherings, such as tea parties and wine tastings.

Not all of her neighbors are convinced, however.

The Farrell House, 416 N.E. Ione St., was built in 1913 by a well-to-do Camas department store owner and is listed on the Clark County Heritage Register. The distinctive Greek Revival-style home had belonged to the Farrell family prior to last year, when Curley purchased it.

Curley has since submitted paperwork seeking an unclassified use permit for Farrell House. Camas’ Planning Commission will hold a hearing July 19 to discuss the permit and is likely make a recommendation to the city council in August, city planner Kathy Marlowe said.

Camas residents will stage an informal meeting tonight to discuss concerns about Curley’s vision for the Farrell House. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 1206 N.E. Birch St.

The Facebook group “JUST SAY NO to Farrell House Event Center” had 85 supporters, or “likes,” as of Friday afternoon.

Curley called criticism of her plans “a misunderstanding of what my intentions are” and welcomed dialogue with her neighbors.

“It’s more for me to share my house and the grounds with the community than me trying to run this big thing,” she said. She surmised her neighbors’ misconceptions started after seeing large signs in her yard while the house was being remodeled.

Curley’s permit submission to Camas mentions her intent to hold backyard wedding ceremonies with as many as 100 people and luncheons and tea parties with as few as 10 people. Temporary tents, altars and restroom trailers might be used, but the only potential permanent feature would be landscaping arbors, the permit says. Parking would be available at the adjacent Camas Friends Church.

Camas resident Tom Martin and his wife started the Facebook page opposing the changes to the Farrell House.

Martin said he and other neighbors don’t want the noise, traffic, or parking problems they believed would come with the events. They want to see the house remain a residential home.

Martin plans to go door-to-door in his neighborhood campaigning against the changes. He questioned the homeowner’s intelligence for bankrolling the massive remodeling project prior to receiving a city permit.

“Either they’re very confident for some reason or they’re not very bright,” Martin said, “because they’re pouring a lot of money into the house.”

Karen Hall, owner of the Camas Hotel, supported Curley’s desire to hold weddings at Farrell House. Such events would increase Hall’s business and provide more customers for downtown stores, she said.

“I see it as a huge benefit and a wonderful use of the old building,” said Hall, a member of the nonprofit Downtown Camas Association.

She cautioned people against rushing to conclusions.

“It would be nice if people would learn more about this before passing judgment,” Hall said.