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Historic Wilkes House in Banks falls victim to a developer’s bulldozer

It was only a few weeks ago that the people of North Plains voted against the massive growth that was being forced upon them by their mayor and council. Small-minded politicians with tunnel vision on growth in general and the false narrative that they were just doing what the state wanted – that turned out to be a lie. Those politicians have been silenced for now, but this fight is still simmering and can flare up again at any time. Good people, these people of North Plains, recognize bullshit when they see it and take action.

Now a fight threatens to break out in Banks, Oregonthe next stop west of North Plains. A very beautiful town with very beautiful people, as I know from my many years of experience with many of them. Banks is also being inundated with requests for growth, including a very large development west of Main Street and the conversion of the Quail Valley Golf Course into 955 homes. The citizens of Banks, all 1,800 of them, are caught in the middle of this unprecedented growth and must prepare for another 2,000 people or more who will surely come from elsewhere out west. The trick is to save the best parts of their town and lifestyle and maintain the friendly image they are known for.

This morning, the developer demolished the property where the historic Wilkes House stands in Banks, Oregon. Read on to learn more.

West Banks, or Sunset View as it will be called, is under contract with David Weekley Homes, who is seeking approval for this subdivision. City of Banks
Holt Homes has proposed a massive 200-acre community east of Banks, Oregon, as seen here. It will be built after the Quail Valley Golf Course is plowed. City of Banks

The pressure is there

To understand how this growth is impacting, check out the map we created below based on the two zoning plans currently in process (see above).

Growth can be good, but experience tells us that the disadvantages often outweigh the advantages. This small town is facing a huge influx of new people that will test all existing systems, including school water supplies, sewerage, transportation, and parking infrastructure.

There will be adjustments and sacrifices on both sides – the old and the new. Today, the Sunset View Developers shed the first blood, in the form of a large machine showing up. Yesterday, July 4, a large fire-breathing excavator showed up at the old historic Jabez Wilkes House, which sits on the portion of the planned Sunset View development. This morning, the machine plowed through the walls of the 150-year-old farmhouse that has been the subject of several news reports recently. For some time, members of the Banks Historical Society have been working to discuss saving the house, which is one of the oldest and most important in Oregon. After all, the Wilkes family settled on the land on which the town sits and was a major figure in Washington County. The group raised awareness, spoke with the developer and town about preserving the house, and considered an offer to see if the house could be relocated. A meeting is scheduled with the Town of Banks to discuss plans to save the house with group members. This meeting is now virtually irrelevant.

And plan this demolition in the heat of the Fourth of July? Oh man, what a genius move from the Developer 201 course they offer at Kabuki University. All kidding aside, this move seemed hasty but orchestrated and made the morning news across the city. There was no comment from the landowners/developers.

Photo from BanksHistory.org.

The Town of Banks has reportedly agreed to purchase the property on which the Wilkes House stands and has made it clear that a new water treatment plant will be located there in the future. It was within their power to save the house; they knew of this interest and the importance of the house. According to our sources, the leadership from the mayor down has ignored this grand old house and its deepest roots by not lifting a finger to offer help in any way.

This sounds exactly like the disaster on the North Plains and proves there is a huge disconnect between what the people want and what politicians think is important. Of the people, by the people, for the people. I believe this, I’ve heard this somewhere before. The Wikes House is gone – and it was built in a hurry before any meeting or further effort to save it – just one man’s opinion. The citizens of Banks need to look at Mayor Stephanie Jones for allowing this to happen, their city attorney Dean Hearn and their city planner Lauren Scott. It’s also very important to look at the fact that this developer plans to fill in some wetlands, is applying for multiple waivers and needs city approval for some things that are still only based on what’s listed on Banks’ planning page on the city’s website.

Many questions remain unanswered:

  • Has proper demolition permission been granted?
  • Have precautions been taken against lead paint, asbestos, oil tanks, etc.? All standard stuff for a demolition job.
  • Is the story true that the Wilkes family lived in a closed settlement with the Atfalati people on their land? It seems so. Local rumors about graves have been circulating for years. Was archaeological work required? If not, will it be?
  • Will the ghost of Jabez Wilkes search for the evildoers and pay them karmic visits for generations to come?e, as a local I was chatting to suggested? (Not entirely serious, but yuck)

Finally, I would like to return to the question of small town vs. property developer. These are big developers and builders. Smaller cities are not well prepared to understand how they work and what boundaries they are willing to cross. Portland and Hillsboro need houses in Banks and North Plains for the worker bees –not a few, but thousands. The pot of gold is in that soil and in those future homes. If this project and this wave of growth starts like this, what the hell is going to happen next?

Wake up, get tough and stand up, dear people. Time, patience and a thoughtful development on all sides are essential if these big steps are to be successful and create added value for everyone. After all, what is the use of growth if those who built the city and live there do not additional benefits from this growth?

Today the people of Banks lost their founders homes at the hands of the landowners/developers. Today was a loss – bottom line. Do better all you decision makers or get ready to clean your desks. That might be the added value in this equation from a bird’s eye view.


Editor’s Note: According to First American Title Insurance’s online research tools, the Wilkes House is owned by:

The Oregon Corporate Division has a record for Loan Oak Land & Investments that contains this information: https://records.sos.state.or.us/ORSOSWebDrawer/Recordhtml/9704045

The other company listed is Wolverine Financial, LLC – https://records.sos.state.or.us/ORSOSWebDrawer/Recordhtml/9736161. According to the Oregon Corporate Division, you can find the relevant information here.

https://records.sos.state.or.us/ORSOSWebDrawer/Recordhtml/9736161