Port Angeles to keep parking rules

Mike French

Mike French

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles City Council majority has shot down a proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements for future homes and businesses.

The council voted 4-3 Tuesday to reject a motion to direct staff to prepare an ordinance to repeal Chapter 14.40 in Port Angeles municipal code that regulates off-street parking.

Council Members Cherie Kidd, Michael Merideth, Jim Moran and Deputy Mayor Kate Dexter voted against the proposal, citing procedural concerns and a staff recommendation to “use caution and patience.”

Council Members Mike French, Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin and Mayor Sissi Bruch voted yes, saying the archaic parking code is raising the cost of new housing construction and making it difficult for businesses to expand.

“I really thought this was a pretty easy fix that we talked about before,” said French, who pitched the elimination of off-street parking requirements.

“We all, I thought, agreed that we didn’t want to have these regulations on private property owners and business owners.

“This is a change that really isn’t as scary as it seems,” French added.

French suggested that the council repeal off-street parking requirements in an April think tank.

He added the measure as a late item at the Aug. 20 council meeting, drawing objections from Kidd, Moran and Merideth, all of whom appealed for more public input and a recommendation from the city Planning Commission.

“I feel that this came on so quickly, and I just feel like it’s being rushed,” Kidd said in a five-hour meeting Tuesday.

“This is impacting every single citizen. We must do this in a thoughtful, complete manner.”

After Tuesday’s vote, Schromen-Wawrin made a second motion to repeal part of city code chapter 17.94.070 to eliminate parking requirements for accessory residential units, or outbuildings. That motion died for a lack of a second.

City code chapter 14.40 sets forth parking requirements for specific types of homes and businesses.

Most of the requirements are based on square-footage. Others are based on the type of use or specific business activity.

Other municipalities such as Bainbridge Island have completed strategic parking plans based on public surveys and parking inventories, Moran said.

He and others said the Planning Commission should have a role in developing a long-term parking plan for Port Angeles.

“I’m not opposed to talking about the parking situation in Port Angeles,” Moran said.

“I would just like to know more about the total picture that were looking at.”

Schromen-Wawrin said other communities have learned that minimum parking requirements “don’t work.”

He and others said minimum parking requirements raise the cost of housing because driveways and other impervious surfaces require stormwater mitigation under state law.

“What we’re doing here is putting the cost of parking into the cost of new housing because we’re requiring parking as part of new construction,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

Schromen-Wawrin likened the existing parking code to the over-prescription of opioids by physicians who have not followed best practices for pain management.

“Nobody’s dying here,” Merideth said.

“This is not a patient. I don’t see why we can’t have a little patience and figure this out. Nobody’s prescribing a death pill.

“We can stop and step back for a minute and figure out what’s going to work for the city,” Merideth added.

“Instead, we’re just going to rip [it] up and throw it in the garbage.”

Merideth said it would be “irresponsible” to repeal the entire parking code without input from the public or Planning Commission.

Proponents of the failed motion noted that the proposal to eliminate off-street parking requirements would be considered after separate readings at two council meetings with opportunities for public input.

City Manager Nathan West encouraged the council to “take this slow.”

“I would use caution and patience with the process,” West said.

Schromen-Wawrin countered that the “more transparent process is to strike this chapter of unnecessary, obsolete and dangerous code that does kill people because homelessness takes 30 years off your life expectancy.”

“Let’s start to move in the right direction by cutting the unnecessary government bureaucratic red tape,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

Dexter, who was excused from Aug. 20 and represented the swing vote Tuesday, said she was “torn about the process in moving forward.”

“I think all of the comments that have been made, particularly in favor of doing this, make a lot of sense to me,” Dexter said.

“And fundamentally, I completely support the idea of just scrapping it and starting over. And I’m also hearing staff and feeling a little reluctant to just blow through it.”

Allyson Brekke, Port Angeles community and economic development director, said parking is a top priority for many residents and business owners.

“Every time an accessory residential unit is proposed, we get letters of public comment from residents and neighborhoods that are worried about the parking congestion,” Brekke told the council.

“I also talk to businesses about the need to require parking. They largely tell us that they would like to require more parking.”

In a public comment period early in the meeting, Bill Atkinson of Port Angeles said minimum parking requirements keep cars off the street.

He urged the council to “seriously consider the impact of eliminating parking regulations.”

“In some areas that I’m familiar with, the street parking has gotten so congested because they repealed the rules on on-site parking,” Atkinson said.

“Nobody can find a place to park, and so they’ve had to issue parking permits for the people that live in these places.

“So it really gets to be a nightmare,” Atkinson added.

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