Port Angeles code topic of virtual open house

PORT ANGELES — City residents and business owners can help shape the future of Port Angeles in an online meeting Tuesday.

The city and a Bellevue consultant will host a virtual open house from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday on a major overhaul of an antiquated municipal code.

The changes will affect business licensing, code enforcement, traffic and parking, short-term rentals, animal control and other aspects of daily life, city officials said.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity,” City Attorney Bill Bloor said Friday.

To join the Zoom meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, click on https://zoom.us/j/994006 88775.

The virtual open house and accompanying online survey are being presented by Madrona Law Group, one of two consultants that the City Council hired last year to help revamp a 130-year-old municipal code that dates back to the city’s founding.

The current code, which is available at www.cityofpa.us, contains 1,143 pages of regulations divided into 241 chapters and 17 titles. The hard copy weighs 16 pounds, city officials said.

City Councils over the last six years have added 147 ordinances to the books. The municipal code has become inconsistent and onerous for citizens and staff, Bloor said in a Friday interview.

“We want to make it easier for the public to use,” Bloor said.

“We want to make it more efficient. We want to reduce the sheer volume of it.”

City Manager Nathan West said the code re-envisioning is a “really big deal” for the city and its residents.

He predicted that code enforcement would top the list of citizen concerns for the update.

“We have to have a better instrument to regulate the way code enforcement plays out for this community, and I think a big part of the frustration is that our code is dated,” West said.

“It desperately needs to be updated if we are going to enable our Police Department, who now has code enforcement officers, the ability to be effective with what they do.”

The city eliminated code enforcement positions amid budget cuts during the Great Recession in 2012. Recent budgets have included funding for code enforcement.

A second Seattle-area consultant, Makers Architecture and Urban Design, was hired to lead the land-use elements of the code update, including the adoption of a form-based code for future development.

Makers held a similar public workshop with an online survey last month.

Madrona Law Group will spearhead the remainder of the code change, which encompass “everything from code enforcement to streets and sidewalks to vehicle and traffic enforcement,” West said.

“Those things matter to us, and we hear about those issues from our citizens on a regular basis,” West said in a Friday interview at City Hall.

“I think it’s important that we hear about that from our citizens as the code development process moves forward with Madrona.”

Meanwhile, the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting an in-person workshop Monday on long-range plans for the city’s downtown.

That workshop begins at 3 p.m. Monday at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St.

“I think it’s great timing to have these meetings together,” Bloor said.

“Every person who is interested in the Chamber presentation should be as interested in the Madrona presentation, because they really are tied together.”

City officials elected to hold a virtual open house to enable more public participation, West said.

People who do not have an internet connection can obtain a paper version of the Madrona municipal code survey at City Hall, 321 E. Fifth St., or the Port Angeles Senior and Community Center, 328 E. Seventh St.

Completed surveys can be dropped off in the utility payment box in the south parking lot at City Hall.

The Tuesday meeting also will be recorded so anyone who is unable to participate can view it later through a link on the city’s website.

Those without computer access can phone the City Clerk at 360-417-4634 for accommodation.

City Councils and staff had long recognized the need for a major code update, Bloor said. The limiting factors were time and money, he said.

“When I first came here in 2004, I was surprised to learn that the City Councils in the past had taken the position with regard to code enforcement nuisance issues that they should just leave people alone,” Bloor said.

“If you want to have cars in your backyard, they didn’t care. They thought it was a violation of property rights and personal freedom to try to tell people (to meet code). Those expectations have changed in time.”

In 2019, the city issued a request for proposals for the code update, and Madrona and Makers emerged as two highly-qualified firms, Bloor said.

The first phase of Madrona’s work was an audit of the existing code. A report from that audit is available on the city’s website.

Phase 2 was a City Council decision to pursue a complete overhaul of the code and subsequent staff meetings with Madrona.

In Phase 3 beginning Tuesday, Madrona will solicit public input on the code topics and to begin to draft revisions to the municipal code.

The City Council will vote to approve code changes after two public hearings, possibly beginning in the fall.

“This will be the first, but it won’t be the last,” Bloor said of the opportunities for public input.

“When it’s brought back to the City Council, the public will have an opportunity to see it at that time. The council will have two readings, like they always do, and decide whether they want to adopt it as is or make changes.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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