North Bend building design standards finalized

NORTH BEND — After almost three months of Planning

Commission review and revision, the final draft version of North Bend's Design

Standards and Guidelines has been released.

The new version largely contains the same guidelines as the

previous edition, but incorporates changes resulting from testimony taken

during the last public hearing and comment period that ended April 27.

"They loosened it up a bit so that people would understand the

verbiage of what was there in the first

place," said Barb Margolis, a business owner and member of the city's

Economic Development Committee.

Many local residents and business owners spoke out against portions

of the last draft, including sign regulations and painting requirements.

They said the proposed painting regulations were restrictive and unnecessary

and the sign guidelines were unclear.

Many unpopular categories of standards have been clarified

or changed, according to Michele Finnegan, management analyst

for North Bend. Finnegan has been working on the latest version.

Community members will have another chance to speak their mind.

A public hearing on the revised document will take place at the Aug. 1

City Council meeting, to be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Mount Si Senior

Center. Verbal input will be accepted at the meeting and written comments

may be turned in for a yet to be determined time period.

A final reading of the document will occur at the August 15

council meeting and could be approved at that time.

Design standards are used by many cities to shape their look

and physical characteristics by outlining a set of criteria by which new

buildings, parks and streets are built.

The standards will affect developers, business and building owners,

but would not apply to most residential homeowners.

According to the revised document, North Bend's design

standards are a tool to shape the quality of the community's growth.

"The reasons for (creating the design standards are that there) were

a lot of these broad goals set forth in the comp plan of what we want to

see in the community, and these standards are trying to delineate them into

something that officials can enforce," Finnegan said. She added that

they would also provide a consistency in the development pattern,

especially downtown.

The document reports that since the city has been under a

building moratorium since 1996 and because the area is slated as a county

growth area, more development is expected in the coming years. It points out

that design standards can be used to choose what type of growth is desired,

including: "a suburb with gated subdivisions, monotype neighborhoods,

ubiquitous commercial buildings and a sole focus on automobile travel," or "a

vibrant small city with dynamic and connected neighborhoods,

greenbelts/pedestrian options and architecturally appealing commercial centers

that capitalize on North Bend's unique locale."

The new guidelines will replace the 1992 version, which city

officials have said were too vague and left room for interpretation. Pictures and

diagrams have been included in the latest draft to supplement the text,

which gives developers and building owners visual examples of expectations.

The document goes along with the city's comprehensive plan, an

overall tool for future planning. But city officials have said the

comprehensive plan, along with other documents,

did not give specific requirements for the city's design, and because of that,

design regulations were needed.

"(The 1992 version of) our design standards are very

broad-principled. So it requires a great deal of

interpretation. These actually try to pinpoint what is meant by those broad

statements and it clarifies what the community actually wants," Finnegan said.

Copies of North Bend's Design Standards and Guidelines are

available for purchase at the Community Services Department, 126 E.

Fourth Street, or at the North Bend Library.

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