PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has adopted new zoning codes in an effort to encourage additional housing to the city.
In a unanimous vote, council members Tuesday evening approved the dozens of changes proposed by the city’s Planning Commission that would allow for additional housing types in residential and commercial zones in hopes of creating higher housing density.
“I’m really excited that this is going to create more housing choices and options,” said council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.
“It’s not going to solve things overnight. It’ll probably be five to 10 years before we’ll see the benefits of this.”
Staff and council have been revising the city’s zoning code since 2017. In 2019, the council adopted a housing action plan to address the lack of affordable housing. In December, the city began a public outreach campaign it called Pursuing Housing for All, which included multiple community meetings and online surveys.
According to city officials, 82 people attended a Jan. 23 public workshop and there were more than 450 responses to online surveys.
Changes approved by the council include allowing up to four units on 7,000-square-foot lots, allowing for housing units to be situated on alleyways and reducing the lot size requirements for trailer parks from 4 acres to half a city block.
The city also changed many of its residential zones from single family to mixed density and reduced size requirements for manufactured homes if they meet building code requirements.
Port Angeles and many other cities are taking advantage of a state law that allows for changes to be made to the zoning code without appeal under the state Environmental Policy Act or the Growth Management Act if the changes are made before April 1.
Mayor Kate Dexter said at the meeting the changes were part of a longer process to bring additional housing to the city.
“It’s this and what comes next,” Dexter said. “We’re looking forward to what comes next.”
Several members of the public gave testimony that spoke to the challenges of finding affordable housing in the city.
Pete Johnson, human resources manager at McKinley Paper Mill, said the cost of local housing is often an impediment to hiring.
“We try to get them to come work for us and it’s a heartbreaking experience,” Johnson said.
“They love the company, they love the location, they love the opportunities that we provide, but they can’t get their arms around housing prices,” he said.
“One out of two or three people give us that type of explanation as to why they’re not in Port Angeles.”
U.S. Coast Guard Commander Roger Barr also cited housing costs as a challenge for service members assigned to the area.
In response to concerns voiced by the community at previous meetings, council members also voted to create a new section of city code, creating standards for the placement of temporary housing.
At a Feb. 9 meeting of the Planning Commission, members of the public expressed concern at the city’s proposal to allow temporary use permits for RVs as an emergency form of housing.
The new section will cover various kinds of temporary housing, according to Housing Coordinator Holden Fleming, including RVs, safe parking areas and tiny home villages.
There is not currently a timeline for when the new code will be written, Fleming said, but proposals will be brought before the city council in the coming months.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.