PORT ANGELES — Olympic Medical Center has had a residential lot rezoned to allow for a potential parking expansion at its Port Angeles campus.
The City Council voted 7-0 last week to change the 0.32-acre lot at 215 N. Frances St. from residential single-family zoning to commercial office zoning.
OMC would be required to obtain a conditional use permit from the city hearings examiner to build a 30-space parking lot on the northeast corner of Francis and Georgiana streets near its Home Health office.
While the staff-recommended rezone received support from the council Nov. 6, several members questioned the need for more parking near the hospital.
“I would hope to see a lot more detail about the parking needs before we as a city grant that conditional use permit,” Council Member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said.
“That said, that’s not the decision we’re making now, and so I do support changing this to commercial office [zoning].”
The legislative council was acting in a quasi-judicial role in considering the rezone.
The city Planning Commission held a public hearing on the application Sept. 26 and voted 6-1 to recommend the change.
“I think the thing that gives me pause is not changing this to commercial, but what the applicants asked for in terms of what they intend to do with it, which is a surface parking lot,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“Based on what I’ve heard from the applicant, I don’t personally think that that’s the best use of this parcel.
“I would hope that Olympic Medical Center will consider other options for what to do with that parcel,” Schromen-Wawrin added.
OMC has been expanding its Port Angeles campus in recent years and opened a $20.6 million, 42,000 square-feet medical office building at 907 Georgiana St. in April 2017.
“The hospital did construct a beautiful new building,” Council member Mike French said.
“It also has a very large surface parking lot that is usually mostly empty. We are in the middle of a housing crisis in our community.”
OMC purchased the property at the corner of Francis and Georgiana for $53,000 in 2017, according to Clallam County Assessor’s Office records. The 1,140-square-foot house was built in 1890.
Council decisions on land use matters must be supported by the city’s comprehensive plan and land use map. Land use designations like commercial and residential are separated by an “imprecise margin” to allow flexibility for future development, according to a staff memo.
The property at 215 N. Francis St. falls in the imprecise margin and is surrounded by commercial zoning, Community and Economic Development Director Allyson Brekke said in the memo.
A staff analysis found that the application meets the goals, policies and objectives of the comprehensive plan and its land use and transportation elements.
“I still take issue with that conclusion,” French said.
“I do not think it meets to the goals, policies and objectives of the land use and transportation elements.
“When I read the transportation element, it talks about multi-modal transportation being our goal,” French added. “It does not talk about adding automobile infrastructure to our city.”
OMC officials said the property at 215 N. Francis St. would provide 30 new parking spaces. Permeable pavement and rain gardens would offset the potential for stormwater runoff and water pollution, the application said.
“The trend of this neighborhood converting from primarily single family residential to medical facilities will almost certainly continue as the population of Port Angeles and the surrounding community grows,” the OMC application said.
“CO [commercial office] zoning allows for the intermingling of single family residences with medical facilities, and much of the neighborhood near 215 N. Francis St. is already zoned CO.”
OMC Plant Operations and Construction Manager Rockie Lee made himself available to answer questions at the council meeting.
Schromen-Wawrin said he recently read a book on sustainable transportation planning that found the ideal density for curb-side parking is about 85-percent.
“If it’s just the fact that people are parking on the street, that’s not a problem,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“If it’s just the fact that the neighbor says ‘There’s cars in front of my house,’ that’s not a problem.
“The question is out of the parking spots available, is one out of seven of them unoccupied at any given time?” Schromen-Wawrin said.
“And if not, then we need to do more parking management in a particular area.”
Council member Cherie Kidd said the OMC expansion has “absolutely enhanced the neighborhood.”
“What the hospital has done is create an absolutely beautiful campus for a much-needed medical center for the entire North Olympic Peninsula,” Kidd said.
“I’m very pleased with what they’ve done and how they’ve done it, but we need to stick to what’s germane, and that’s the rezone.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.