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Changes to plan before council

NORTH BEND - Balancing development and conservation lies at the heart of proposed changes to the North Bend comprehensive plan, which were formally introduced to the City Council at a public hearing last week.

Council members, members of the Planning Commission and residents discussed the amendments to the 2000 comprehensive plan Tuesday, April 9.

North Bend is required by state law to have a comprehensive plan that outlines solutions to various city issues, such as how it will manage growth.

Most of the disputes concerning the amendments were centered around the sensitive areas and buffer zones created by them to restrict development in certain parts of the city and its urban growth area.

One of the areas created in the amendments, the Sensitive Areas Overlay District (SAOD), was supported by a 5-1 vote from the Planning Commission. The commission recommended, however, that a channel migration clause in it not be included.

If kept in the amendment, the clause would prohibit rebuilding a house in a channel migration area - an area where streams are likely to change course.

Planning Commissioner Michelle Gustafson said she voted against the channel migration clause since a majority of those areas are already developed.

"We excluded it because of it's impact on homeowners," she said.

Residents of the Silver Creek neighborhood in North Bend, which is located in a channel migration area, spoke against the clause and the overall SAOD, saying it would decrease the value of their houses.

Residents also spoke out against a new Interchange Commercial-Residential (ICR) zone that would be introduced to the current zoning map, which the Planning Commission supported.

The ICR would lie between residential and interchange commercial areas and would have a different set of permitted uses to be more compatible with adjoining residential uses.

George Wyrsch, whose land south of the State Route 202 and Interstate 90 interchange would be affected by the rezoning, said it was unfair.

"This (ICR) is a largely site-specific designation," Wyrsch said. "I think the TAOD is a much better concept."

Of all the recommendations the Planning Commission gave, the Transitional Areas Overlay District (TAOD) was perhaps the most divisive, with commissioners splitting 3-3 on whether to include it.

The TAOD would mark areas between residential and commercial or industrial areas with a 200-foot overlay zone (100 feet each side of the line). That overlay zone would require landscaping and other site design changes to mitigate potential incompatible land-use impacts.

Landowners took issue with TAOD for many of the same reasons they spoke against the SAOD and ICR, saying the costs that would arise from the regulations would make any development cost prohibitive.

"It's overreacting and it's unprecedented," said Sean Hogan.

Some citizens took issue with the methods used to determine the labeling of certain areas. Although the city said all measurements and zoning are made with the "best available science," some questioned how accurate the procedures were.

"How good does your info have to be to fall under the cloak of 'best available science?'" asked Richard Clark. "I think you should trash it [amendments] and start over."

Planning Commissioner Bruce Hemmings, who voted to recommend the TAOD to the City Council, said the commission is not trying to stifle growth and is addressing real hazards to the city. He cited recent floods in the 1990s as proof that North Bend will have to prepare and zone for future flood events.

"This is a real problem," Hemmings said. "It's not a mythical attempt to try and burden property owners."

Written comments about the 2000 comprehensive plan amendments will be accepted by the city until April 26, after which the amendments will go to the City Council for approval.

Commissioner Ken Hearing said that although the City Council has a history of approving recommendations from the Planning Commission, he has a feeling that tradition may end with present council members.

"I suspect they will change it," Hearing said.

Written comments regarding the amendments can be submitted to North Bend by mailing them to Steven Buske at P.O. Box 896, North Bend, WA 98045, or by e-mail to sbuske@ci.north-bend.wa.us.

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