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Zoning changes proposed for North Bend
Residents of North Bend take note: the city could be changing its shape a bit.
The North Bend City Council took a step toward updating its comprehensive growth plan by introducing a proposal for new zoning changes last Tuesday, which may mean more room between new houses, an increase in mixed industrial areas and easier access to downtown services.
North Bend has already adopted its 2005 comprehensive plan and the City Council is now set to review the city's proposed zoning code revisions; both of which the city would also like to see applied to the Urban Growth Area (UGA)s that rests outside city limits for when and if the UGAs are annexed into the city.
"The comp plan is just a skeleton, a guide as to where the city is going," North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing said about the 1995 vision plan for the city, upon which the 2005 comprehensive plan is based. "The development zoning code is putting into ordinance what was suggested from the comp plan amendments. By doing the zoning code [revision], we're just bringing everything into alignment."
The council is looking to keep growth in North Bend consistent with the state Growth Management Act requirements and still allow enough room to keep the rural feel the area is known for, - a challenge the mayor doesn't take lightly.
The primary reason for the zoning changes is because the City Council wants to see a less dense environment, said Hearing.
"People move to North Bend to have some space ... they don't want to see a really super dense environment in North Bend," he added.
The areas most likely to be affected are undeveloped property located along Maloney Grove Road, and north of Southeast 120th Street along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River.
Currently some of these areas are under county jursidiction and are only being considered for annexation into the city.
"These areas not built out are currently designated to allow four to eight houses per acre. The proposed rezoning would allow a build out of four to six houses per acre, which is a decrease in density," Hearing said.
He also said older areas, such as Silver Creek, would not be affected because this area is already zoned for a limit of two to four houses per acre.
Even though the mayor and council are careful to manage growth by limiting density in new developments, areas such as downtown North Bend could have an increase in housing density.
Hearing describes this area as the downtown area that includes the south side of the river extending north to the library and east from the river to the elementary school.
"For the ambulatory or any residents with limited mobility, their housing needs are different. They need to be located close to downtown goods and services," Hearing said.
Additionally, the comprehenive plan needed to be consistent with the state Growth Management Act, adopted by the state Legislature in 1990 as a way to help local governments manage growth and serve state citizens.
This signals a change in land use, explained Larry Stockton, community services director for the city who noted that the zoning the city is proposing has been anticipated in the city's transportation plans.
"In the GMA, we have to provide for growth and job targets and we can't do that if we don't have the zoning in place," Hearing said.
If approved, the new zoning plan will be included along with the comprehensive plan, completing the compliance requirements under the GM Act.
Hearing said the city has until the end of 2006 to submit a new zoning map. But to qualify for a 3.5 million water rights grant, the city must be GMA compliant, which means the city must submit the new zoning changes sooner than the deadline.
"We really don't have until the end of the year," Hearing added.
Stockton explained that the current UGA is largely underdeveloped. If annexed in accordance with zoning and the city's comprehensive plan, the land, which is typically a low-service cost for the city, will have a high potential for one-time benefits for the city and serve as a potential long-term tax base.
"There's some very compelling reasons that we want to work within the GMA," Stockton said.
"In the short term, though, it will have little impact on the city," he added. "If annexation is done consistent with policy, it should have a neutral to positive effect on the city."
Areas up for potential eventual annexation include, but are not limited to, Silver Creek, the Edgewick employment area on East North Bend Way, parts of the Maloney Grove Road, Shamrock Park, Wood River and River Bend.
The city is proposing a four-phase annexation plan. In the first phase, Silver Creek, the area from the ranger station to the Mount Si Road along East North Bend Way and Tanner road would be annexed into the city. In phase two, Maloney Grove, Opstad Elementary and Shamrock Park would be incorporated. In the third phase, Wood River would be annexed. River Bend is designated as the fourth and final phase of North Bend's annexation.
Stockton explained that every 10 years the city is required to review and adapt its comprehensive plan to accommodate for new population and employment growth, although amendments may be made annually. The city did revise the plan in 2002, but it did not do a 10-year update.
The proposed zoning code is a working draft and the city's goal is to begin the final revisions in April.
The city of North Bend is seeking public comment on the proposed zoning regulations. The next public hearing will be held on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mount Si Senior Center, 411 Main Ave. S. in North Bend.
For information, call (425) 888-5633. The complete 2005 Comprehensive Plan is available at http://ci.north-bend.wa.us.