Concerns surrounding development in the city was the focus of a community meeting held on April 10 in North Bend as the community met with city staff.
The meeting was attended by dozens of residents who came to hear city staff, the mayor and City Council members discuss how the city was developing. City administrator Londi Lindell said the city had crafted its development vision based on community input, which included enhancing the existing environment downtown, maintaining the city’s character and preserving its natural beauty.
Cities in Washington state are subject to the Growth Management Act, which was designed to prevent urban sprawl and concentrate development in existing urban centers. North Bend has adopted a constrained density zoning that generally allows for around four houses to be built per acre.
Housing goals developed by the Puget Sound Research Council, which North Bend is a part of, set a goal of creating 665 new housing units in the city by 2035. However, these targets are not lids and nearly 460 single-family units have already been constructed with around 900 more in the pipeline. The targets are being reviewed and will likely be increased next year.
Some residents in attendance questioned why the city couldn’t place a moratorium on issuing new building permits, citing nearby cities such as Sammamish that have enacted one to study the effects of growth on the city. Lindell said moratoriums cannot be used solely for the purpose of putting the brakes on development, but must have a justifiable reason, such as studying a growth plan.
“You cannot legally adopt a moratorium to slow development and/or to stop development,” she said.
Similarly, when growth targets are reached, the city cannot prevent private residents from developing their land, said community development manager Dave Miller.
King County is the fourth fastest growing region in the United States, with an anticipated 1.8 million additional people expected to move here by 2050, but Lindell said actual growth has been outpacing projections. Lindell said she expects people to continue moving to North Bend as they leave Seattle for less crowded cities to the east.
The city can enact emergency zoning moratoriums and has done so. An example was restricting cottage developments to 1,500 square feet — down by 200 square feet — following developments they felt were too large to be considered cottages. Council has additionally cut back on the amount of residential units allowed in commercial zones and increased minimum lot sizes for other developments.
Traffic impact fees paid by developers have been increased from $600 to $11,800 per single family unit, the second highest in the state, Lindell said. School impact fees, which the city collects and passes on to school districts is $13,000 per unit.
Residents expressed concerns about water and sewer capacity but Lindell said the city has enough capacity for the next 50 years of projected build-out.
In the future, the city will be commissioning an economic leakage study to figure out where money spent in North Bend is going and if it is heading out to other communities instead of staying within the city.