PORT ANGELES — Plans to construct a building 40 percent taller than any other in the city were greeted Tuesday with enthusiasm at a hearing for Bellevue developer Eric Dupar’s Anian Shores development.
The Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce and would-be neighbors next door, across the street and on the bluff above the proposed seven-story housing-retail-parking garage complex said they supported the project, saying it fit with a planned resurgence in downtown projects.
Far fewer commenters criticized the conditional-use permit to exceed building height requirements, saying it would set a precedent for taller buildings, block out the sun and fall short of meeting the city’s housing needs.
The 90-minute virtual meeting was conducted on the internet and by phone because of COVID-19 precautions against large gatherings ordered by the state.
City Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves of Seattle said he would rule by July 10 on Dupar’s permit to exceed the 45-foot height limit by 25 feet.
He allowed further comment until noon Friday for commenters who had difficulty accessing the meeting by phone or the internet. Public comment can be taken by the city Department of Community and Economic Development.
“There is significant interest in this proposal,” Reeves said.
The City Council is poised to sign a purchase and sale agreement with Dupar for the 109,000-square-foot project, which would be built on a parking lot on land he leases and which the council has declared as surplus.
The city Department of Community and Economic Development recommended approval of the permit.
Planner Kevin Bagwell said Anian Shores would rise between 69.6 feet and 72 feet depending on grade, two stories taller than the city’s highest structure, the five-story Naval Elks Lodge.
He said the Lodge stands 100 feet above sea level — higher above sea level than Anian Shores, which is one block closer to the shoreline.
“This proposal will be less than the impacts associated with the height of the Elks building,” Bagwell concluded, adding it also would be shorter than the city’s 87.5-foot bluff that offers some residents views of Port Angeles Harbor and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Bagwell also said Anian Shores fits in with ongoing development in the central business district, including the Port Angeles Waterfront Center campus.
A separate restaurant would be built and five retail stores added to the ground floor of the development.
“This project is part of that same rebirth effort of Port Angeles,” he said, calling it a “Port Angeles renaissance,” a reference repeated more than once during the hearing
The project architect said more than 320 parking stalls would be set aside, more than doubling the existing spaces and including provision for 26 free three-hour spaces as presently provided. The parking garage would take up a third of the square footage.
There would be 104 spaces for the residential units, 100 for the state Department of Health and Human Services a block north on West First Street and 116 for neighboring buildings from 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., including the 26 free spaces.
“What’s really driving the height of the building are those 116 stalls,” the architect said, adding without them, the parking garage would be four stories.
There also would be 216 stalls available for the Port Angeles Waterfront Center, including the Field Arts and Events Hall, after 6:30 p.m.
At the hearing, Bagwell cited factors including economic development, tourism, and additional housing in determining that permit approval is in the public interest.
One commentor, James Taylor, said the housing would be “high-end.”
In a previous interview Dupar, who has not returned calls for comment on the project, has said condominiums would be built for the project, while the staff report describes them as “market rate” and the conditional use permit application says they are “middle and high income.”
Neither Dupar, who was at the hearing, nor his architect discussed the kind of housing that would be provided.
Won’t be the same
One commenter recalled how an allowance for one building in Lincoln City, Ore., to exceed that coastal town’s height limit led to a slew of taller buildings.
“Port Angeles just won’t be the same,” she said.
Brooke Taylor, president of the Waterfront Center board of directors, said the project serves the parking needs for the Field Arts and Events Hall, currently under construction across West Front Street from where Anian Shores would be built.
It also will serve a planned Lower Elwha Klallam tribal longhouse and a Feiro Marine Life Center-Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary facility on the Waterfront Center parcel.
He noted the Field Center was approved at 5 feet over the 45-foot limit, saying some partial obstruction of views is worth providing parking at peak times.
“It’s time for us to move forward,” he said.
Taylor said he expects a variety of buildings to be planned for 50-70 feet, including the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s hotel a block west of the Waterfront Center, where construction has halted during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a very important part of that renaissance,” Taylor said.
Christopher Thomsen, Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce board president, said more than $140 million will be invested in the downtown area to spur its revival.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].