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City settles height question

The Port Orchard City Council finally held the long-awaited discussion on building height standards during a special meeting on the Downtown Overlay District on Monday evening.

Council spent the entire two-hour meeting discussing the height restrictions in the downtown core, and ended with a compromise based on a proposal drafted by Councilman Rick Wyatt and one of the city's lawyers, Greg Jacoby.

Councilmembers Robert Putaansuu and Rita DiIenno will join Wyatt and Jacoby in drafting another proposal based on the compromises discussed Monday.

The draft will restrict buildings north of Bay Street to 27 feet or 39 feet with a conditional-use permit and buildings south of Bay Street to 39 feet or 55 feet with a permit.

As part of the conditional-use permit, developers will be required to build amenities from a list of recommendations. Buildings on the south side of Bay Street up to 55 feet will be required to build twice the amenities as those on the north side building up to 39 feet.

Wyatt initially urged the council to incorporate the View Protection Ordinance into the Downtown Overlay District, but only found support from Councilman Robert Geiger. The remaining councilmembers present -- Councilwoman Carolyn Powers was absent -- expressed weariness over the inclusion after a conversation with one of the city's lawyers, Loren Combs.

Combs said at a study session looking at the ordinance that the council could spend an entire year revising what he called an ambiguous document.

The View Protection Ordinance restricts new developments from blocking more than 30 percent of a residents view.

Councilmen Robert Putaansuu and Fred Chang complimented the intent of the view protection ordinance, but questioned its overall success.

"I feel that by adopting the View Protection Ordinance, we're going back to what isn't working," Putaansuu said.

Wyatt attempted to pursuade the bench to include the View Protection Ordinance, but eventually reverted to a pre-arranged alternative.

"I think I'm fighting a losing battle. I disagree with it, I think it should be included in the Downtown Overlay District, but I think the writing is on the wall," Wyatt said. "It appears that I can't get enough support ... I have an Option B."

Wyatt distributed a two-page draft written with Jacoby that pulls parts of the View Protection Ordinance into the Downtown Overlay District.

"The concept was to incorporate some of the key concepts, but not import the (View Protection Ordinance) wholesale," Jacoby said.

Wyatt's alternative proposal required conditional-use permits for developments building to the taller building heights -- 55 feet on the south side of Bay Street and 39 feet on the north -- and cut the required amenities entirely.

With a conditional-use permit, developers will have to appear at a public hearing held by the City Council or a hearing examiner.

"To me, that's one of the most important parts of this whole thing, especially when you start talking about up to 55 feet on the south side," Wyatt said."It allows the public to put in the input ... it's what we've been doing for years."

Although the bench agreed with the 39- and 55-foot height restrictions, several balked at the deletion of the amenities.

"I think by deleting the amenities, it would make a much cleaner, easier process," Wyatt said.

DiIenno disagreed, arguing that downtown needs "some public soft touch." The current draft of the Downtown Overlay District requires that developers build an amenity valued at 1 percent of the building's total value. The council estimated that depending on the project, an amenity could cost up to $20,000.

"I'm not comfortable trading it away," DiIenno said. "I don't believe a $20,000 amenity is an outrageous exchange for the ability to go to upper stories."

The council eventually opted to create a new draft with Jacoby, using Wyatt's alternative plan as the springboard.

The finished draft will include amenities, but Wyatt, DiIenno and Putaansuu will work with the lawyer to determine what will be required. Geiger encouraged the council to create a "wish list" of amenities, rather than allowing a developer to interpret the meaning.

Previously, some discussed allowing LEED buildings -- environmentally friendly materials and practices -- as an amenity, but DiIenno discouraged this, preferring something that would be viewable or usable by the public.

Wyatt, DiIenno and Putaansuu will return to the next DOD meeting on June 12 with a new draft outlining height requirements.

"II think that's a good compromise across the board," DiIenno said. "Personally, I'm pleased with the balance."

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