Deadline nears for comment on code change plan

Port Angeles Planning Commission to present ideas to council next month

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles Planning Commission is considering changes in residential and commercial development codes aimed at easing the housing crisis.

Residents have until Friday to view (https://www.cityofpa.us/1051/Building-Residential-Capacity) and comment (email [email protected]) on the proposed changes before its second reading on Nov. 3 and ultimate presentation to City Council on Nov. 16.

Dwindling housing inventory, increased rental costs and income caps have made finding a place to live in Port Angeles difficult for most people in what Allyson Brekke, director for the Port Angeles Department of Economic and Community Development, calls the “missing middle.”

Brekke believes that changes to residential codes would open up more options.

The planning commission is working with consultants from Makers Zoning Code and Urban Design on updating The current residential and commercial zoning codes in Port Angeles, which are more than 50 years old, to allow for more development as well as design cohesion in the residential and commercial areas of the city.

“It’s kind of a balancing act,” said Bob Bengford with Makers.

“We are looking to provide greater zoning flexibility to increase residential capacity. So we’re looking at some reduced lot sizes in some cases, increased density provisions, increased height, adjustments to parking and housing type flexibility in some of the zones,” he continued.

“What we’re doing is kind of balancing that, and making it more acceptable to the community, we’re looking at some greater design controls.”

The project, funded through a $50,000 grant from the state Department of Commerce, began last year with interviews and public surveys conducted from December through April.

In June, the planning commission conducted its first workshop with Makers where they analyzed the results of surveys that have led to the development of proposed changes. The first public hearing was held on Oct. 13.

Residential

In residential zones, what’s being proposed is changing lot sizes.The majority of the city is zoned in areas zoned R7 (small single family lots). These lots are currently a minimum of 5, 000 square feet with 50-foot minimum width.

The proposed change is to reduce the minimum lot size to 3,500 square feet with a 25-foot minimum width, allowing for at least two single-family homes to be built on one lot.

“Early on we heard a lot of community interest in improving the potential for new housing here and the specific idea we are running with is allowing smaller lots in this zone and many cities are doing similar things and we think it could work here,” Scott Bonjukian with Makers said

The second proposed change is to increase density in Residential Medium Density (RMD) and Residential High Density (RHD) zones.

It is in these areas in particular where the proposed design standards and other mitigations would come into play.

They would allow for the development of six attached townhomes as well as other multifamily dwellings in RMD zones while simultaneously prohibiting the development of new single-family dwellings.

Another proposal is increasing the minimum unit density for multifamily dwellings from four to eight units per acre with a similar proposal is made for RHD zoning, with an increase from 10 to 16 units per acre.

This would also include raising height requirements from 35 feet to 45 feet.

“The (City’s) comprehensive plan envisions these zones being where higher density, residential activities will be going on and we want to make sure the land is utilized for that purpose,” Bonjukian said.

Developments would need to follow new design standards.

“Some of the design standards for these small lots will include a minimum open space, a covered porch or entry, minimum of one tree which can be placed anywhere on the lot and also require parking … to be provided in the rear of the lot off the alley,” Bonjukian said.

These design standards also would apply to the development of duplexes and townhomes. However townhomes are currently only permitted for development in the RMD, RHD, and Commerical Office zones, but the code update suggests additional zoning in other commercial districts as well as increasing unit sizes from four to six.

Multifamily housing would have different standards as many of the zones where it is permitted are commercial zones, with additional zoning in RMD and RHD areas.

The proposed code changes are to increase unit capacity from four to six in RMD zones and to remove unit capacity from Commercial Office zones. Beyond that, multifamily would be subject to block frontage standards, require minimum amenity areas and meet other commercial design requirements.

Commercial

In the five commercial areas in Port Angeles — Central Business District (CBD), Commercial Arterial (CA), Central Shopping District (CSD), Commercial Office (CO), and Commercial Neighborhood (CN) — the main recommended code changes have to do with building height.

“Height limits are very low right now across the board, so there is an opportunity there to provide more capacity and make some of the development types more financially feasible,” Bengford said.

Current commercial building heights in Port Angeles are 35 feet maximum, which is the maximum height in residential areas and is not economically viable for the more urban areas, he said.

In the CSD zone, the current height is 35 feet with a proposed increase to 45 feet, with a potential bonus of up to 65 feet.

The bonus height comes in part from the potential to increase affordable housing.

In communities like Port Angeles where affordable housing is hard to come by, there are opportunities for using additional height as an incentive for generating affordable housing, according to consultants.

Developments in both CA and CSD can work to meet one of three requirements to qualify for additional height as an incentive.

The development must either be a participant in the 12-year Property Tax Exemption for Multifamily Housing program, have at least 25 percent of total dwelling units containing 600 square feet or less of gross floor area, or 10 percent of total dwelling units have three bedrooms.

“The purpose of these is to help address different demographics and income levels across the community and to help offset the costs of larger buildings, ” Bonjukian said.

In the CA Zone, the current height is 35 feet, with a recommendation of being raised to 55 feet with the potential for 65 feet. CN Zone is currently 35 feet with the recommendation of being raised to 40 feet and the CO zone is currently 30 feet with the recommendation of being raised to 45 feet.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]

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