Snoqualmie council discusses historic downtown building height and public comment changes

The council discussed ordinances increasing building height in downtown and time for public comment.

The Snoqualmie City Council on June 25 discussed ordinances that would increase building height flexibility in the historic downtown area and would adjust the time for public comment during meetings.

Introduced only for discussion that night was an ordinance that proposes to raise the building height limit in the Historic Overlay Zone, located in historic downtown Snoqualmie, from 30 to 35 feet. The change is to adjust development for flood elevation, rooftop equipment or accessories and architectural compatibility.

Community Development Director Mark Hofman explained that the ordinance was partly born from a desire to bring two conflicting city zoning codes in alignment. The Historic Overlay Zone, Snoqualmie Municipal Code section 17.35, limited buildings in the zone to 30 feet when it was implemented in 2001. However, the Business Retail 1 zoning area, which lies within the historic district, has its height limit set at 35 feet. Portions of Business Retail 2 and Business Retail General zoning areas are within the historic district as well and also carry the 35-foot limit.

Because of necessary height elevations to mitigate the impacts of flooding, the potential building height would be raised 3 to 4 feet, Hofman said. In that case the developer may only be able to create a single story to meet mechanical needs and stay within the architectural style laid out in the city code.

“If your project depends on supporting retail that supplies two stories and so forth, it could be seen that 30 feet is too restrictive,” he said. “Staff is not getting into that policy decision or making that judgment call, we are seeking to verify which of these two code chapters governs and then fix that language so that when it is applied to an application that it is very clear on our end.”

After some discussion, the council voted to send the ordinance back to committee for further examination of what heights are needed and what the economic impacts would be of raising the limit. As he proposed the motion, Council member James Mayhew said that he wanted to know how the 30-foot height limit impacted prospective businesses looking to move to the city and if raising the limit by 5 feet would really make a difference.

The council also voted to adopt a resolution that alters the public comment aspect of their council and committee meetings. The resolution consolidates the opportunity for the public to comment on items not on the agenda from two opportunities, at the beginning and end of the meeting. For items on the agenda, public comment is moved before the council deliberations so that the council can incorporate those comments into their discussion.

Council member Bryan Holloway said that this change would adjust the recommended time limit of two minutes to be increased to three minutes for the public comment on items not on the agenda.

The resolution passed in a 6-1 vote with Council member Peggy Shepard voting against citing that she wanted to allow more time for the public to give public comments.

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