Brekke addresses ‘bad apple’ comment on code change proposals

Port Angeles businessman objects

Allyson Brekke.

Allyson Brekke.

PORT ANGELES — Allyson Brekke, the City of Port Angeles’ director of the Department of Community and Economic Development, addressed comments on proposed zoning code changes, specifically a section that one businessman deemed the “bad apple.”

“I don’t know about all of you, but I have been hearing a lot about bad apples lately,” Brekke said at a meeting with Port Angeles Business Association on Tuesday.

The comment was in reference to a letter written to the planning commission and the City of Port Angeles by Erik Marks, owner of The Wharf.

In the letter, Marks identified chapter, 17.22 in the proposed code changes as the “bad apple.”

“The Draft Code Amendments you have before you are well done, reflecting the focus and hard work by City Staff and outside consultants. But there is one bad apple, in the form of Chapter 17.22 – Commercial Design Standards, that threatens to spoil the bunch,” Marks said in his letter.

He believes that, although the goal of the proposed code changes is to increase residential development, the section of the code will have the opposite effect.

“In nearly all of its parts the proposed code amendment, in fact, does increase the residential building capacity of Port Angles,” Marks said.

“However, Chapter 17.22 will not increase residential capacity. … quite the opposite is true.”

Marks recommended that Chapter 17.22 either be struck from the code changes prior to approval or be reworked.

“Is that possible?” Kaj Ahlburg asked.

Brekke said striking the chapter completely would not be feasible due to a condition of the grant money the city received to conduct the code changes.

But she said that the scope of the chapter could be narrowed.

“17.22 really is the form-based code component … There is an idea that we could just scale back the area in town where it would apply,” Brekke said.

“But some version of 17.22 has to move forward to ensure we meet the deliverable of that commerce grant.”

Marks said Chapter 17.22 imposes costly design criteria on all development in commercial zones.

Chapter 17.22 in the current city code does not include any specific design requirements, whereas the proposed code advocates for block frontage standards, such as storefront, mixed-use and landscaped designs, with variations in the facades and making the commercial areas more pedestrian-centric.

Marks argued Port Angeles is not developed economically enough to support such changes.

When this topic came up during the presentation to the business association, Brekke argued that, in the current climate, it is hard to define any potential cost increase, if any, and recognized the unique challenges that are posed to developers on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“It’s very hard, first of all, to find that actual cost increase, especially in today’s current market,” Brekke said.

“I think it’s unfair if we just assume it’s an increase in cost,” she continued.

“If there is some small cost, or even I would say probably, just after talking to applicants (developers) that have construction projects on hold, I absolutely recognize the increase in cost for the ‘soft costs,’ the design costs. I recognize that we are challenged here on the Peninsula with the number of professionals that we need to carry our development forward,” Brekke said.

________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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