City begins revising Overlay District

On Monday evening, the Port Orchard City Council got down to the business of dissecting the Downtown Overlay District regulations in the first of what will be at least two meetings.

The work proved long and difficult, as the council debated the district's boundaries, permitted uses and conditional uses.

Ultimately, the council agreed to set the district boundaries as recommended by the Planning Commission, spreading east to west from Seattle Avenue to Cline Street and north and south from the water to Prospect Alley.

The border deviates from road on Prospect, where it meanders to include the parcel that includes the Casey and Casey law offices.

The council left the list of permitted uses in the district relatively unchanged. Without adding or removing any uses, the council separated the list into sections, limiting the uses allowed on the street level of Bay Street.

On Bay Street, residential units, day cares, health services, professional offices and public agency offices will be limited to second floors and above. The council hoped to encourage the commercial base along Bay Street by limiting the other uses.

Outside of Bay Street, all uses are allowed on street level.

Jerry Childs and Shannon Lowe, who own the property directly east of the law office, bemoaned the decision during a brief recess. They could not address council, however, because public comment had been closed.

The pair previously requested that the council include their home because the Overlay District wraps them in a corner.

Childs and Lowe worry that tall buildings will surround and overshadow their recently remodeled home and they wished to be included in the Overlay District because, "We feel it would be more consistant," Childs said.

The council decided to adopt the Planning Commission's proposal rather than make changes based on individual requests. Councilwoman Carolyn Powers questioned making changes for individuals, arguing that it slowed down proceedings.

While discussing the boundary, the council stumbled over the height discussion several times, realizing that many of the current decisions are dependent on the later height decisions.

"Are we going to keep putting this off because we can't make a decision about height?" Powers asked. "We have to start making decisions."

Though they discussed it at length, the councilmembers left the issue of conditional-use permits with no consensus at the end of the evening.

The current draft of the Downtown Overlay District requires that buildings with a combined total of 40,000 square feet of space must receive a conditional-use permit if the applicant meets certain requirements.

In the revised draft submitted by Councilman Rick Wyatt, applicants would also be required to attend a public hearing with council.

The process is similar in the View Protection Ordinance, but is based on height rather than square footage.

Wyatt's proposal was meant to give the council oversight on large buildings that fall below the allowable height limit.

Councilman John Clauson said the process adds unnecessary red tape to the process, but Wyatt argued the process is similar to what's already in place.

"Why do you want to fix something that's not broken?" Wyatt asked.

Councilmember Robert Geiger agreed.

"Everything bears a little microscopic examination," he said.

The council did not make any decisions about height limits, but did discuss at the beginning of the meeting requiring lower heights along Prospect Street, in order to prevent any more view loss.

Without any detailed discussion on height, Clauson introduced the idea of setting the permitted height on Prospect lower than on Bay Street, due to the rise in elevation.

Because the height issue frequently arose among other discussions, Mayor Kim Abel encouraged the council to take on the height debate at the beginning of the May 15 meeting.

"I think we've got to deal with those," Abel said.

Abel said on Thursday that the council agreed to begin the next meeting discussing design standards and then move on to height because the design standards could affect the final height decision.

"If you have good design standards in place, that helps alleviate that concern about height," Abel said. "It makes some good sense that you would talk about some design standards first."

The council tackled less-controversial issues at Tuesday night's meeting in part because Councilwoman Rita DiIenno was not present.

"That's one of the reasons I held off on the harder decisions," Abel said.

DiIenno may weigh in on some of the already-discussed items from Monday evening after she views the recording of the meeting.

Looking beyond the current proposal, the council discussed pushing forward immediately on regulations for the Downtown Overlay District "wings."

The current regulations will only refer to the area spanning from Cline Avenue to Seattle Avenue, and nothing west or east of there.

"I'd like to see us find a time to have an initial kick off and ask (the planning commission) to go forward and start working on those wings," Clauson said.

The council is due to meet in a regular session on May 14, and it is expected to continue the Downtown Overlay District discussion on May 15 at 6:30 p.m.

If the council completes a draft of the district that evening, the Downtown Overlay District could be approved as early as the May 29 City Council meeting. However, Abel requested that councilmembers bring their calendars on May 15 to schedule another meeting, if needed.

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