Port Angeles City Council debates review of comprehensive plan

PORT ANGELES — A 4-3 majority of the Port Angeles City Council has voted to remand a comprehensive plan amendment to the city Planning Commission for a substantive review that meets a June 2019 deadline.

The council then voted 7-0 Tuesday to declare that the city’s current plan meets the requirements of the state Growth Management Act.

Council members Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin, Michael Merideth, Mayor Sissi Bruch and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter voted to give the seven-member Planning Commission and city staff another year to amend the city’s major planning document.

“We don’t need to rush this,” Bruch said.

Council members Mike French, Cherie Kidd and Jim Moran voted no, saying the comprehensive plan needs a major overhaul, not more revisions.

“To me, I think what we need is a fundamental rewrite,” French said.

The council spent an hour Tuesday debating ways to improve the comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 2016.

The 1990 state Growth Management Act requires cities and counties to adopt comprehensive plans to guide future local development.

Port Angeles is not required to update its plan until 2024, according to staff.

Comprehensive plans are meant to reflect a community’s vision.

They set goals, policies and objectives that serve as a basis for budgets, capital facilities plans, transportation plans, work plans, level of services and other actions, according to an introduction to the city’s 106-page plan.

The Port Angeles Planning Commission recommended a 2018 comprehensive plan amendment after a robust discussion and public hearing in May.

The amendment was intended to improve accuracy, correct errors, add performance standards and incorporate an American Institute of Architects sustainable design assessment into the greater community vision, Acting City Manager Nathan West said in a memo to the council.

“We’re extremely appreciative to the Planning Commission for their time in reviewing the document and providing some diligent comments on the document itself,” West told the council Tuesday.

Bruch noted that the land-use advisory board “wanted to do more” with the amendment but had to rush to meet a deadline.

The council was required to hold two public hearings and approve the amendment by June 30.

“What I would like us to think about is sending this back to the Planning Commission and give them the time to make this plan a really good plan for us,” said Bruch, a professional planner.

“A nice, simple, elegant plan would be so much easier for us to use.”

Schromen-Wawrin made the motion to ask the Planning Commission to take up the comprehensive plan amendment again with sufficient time for council adoption in June 2019.

“We have a lot of really talented members on the Planning Commission, and there was definitely a sense that I got back that they didn’t really have enough time to dig into it to the level that they would want,” said Schromen-Wawrin, who attended the May 23 Planning Commission meeting and provided comments for the amendment.

“I’m feeling the same pressure.

“Let’s give ourselves some more breathing room, if we can,” Schromen-Wawrin added, “so that we don’t have to do this every year.”

Dexter and other council members raised concerns about the staff time required for another comprehensive plan review.

West said another amendment could delay other projects.

“What I’m worried about is a year from now we’re going to be in the same position where we’re going to see a plan that’s amended, and we’ll still have issues with it,” said French, who described the current plan as a “hodgepodge” of editing and rewrites.

Merideth said the comprehensive plan should address “changing issues” in the community.

He suggested that the council seek feedback from the Planning Commission on “what a rewrite would look like to them.”

Kidd raised the issue of council members inserting their own language into the comprehensive plan.

“My concern is this whole thing getting bogged down in minutia,” Kidd said.

Moran said he was a “great fan” of Planning Commission input but questioned whether an amendment would address fundamental deficiencies in the comprehensive plan.

“I would like to see us really begin the process of rewriting this document, start getting the input that we need and the clear vision from the citizens of Port Angeles of where they want their city to be in 10, 15, 20 years,” Moran said.

“To me, this seems like being bitten to death by ducks.”

In other action from the 3½ hour meeting, the council voted 7-0 to approve a 2019-24 Capital Facilities Plan and Transportation Improvement Plan.

Long-range planning documents are available on the city’s website, www.cityofpa.us.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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