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The Issaquah Press
Issaquah, Washington
January 28, 2009     The Issaquah Press
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January 28, 2009

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A2 WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 28~ 2009 THE ISSAQUAH PRESS plfy City officials slm 1 zoning codes Changes make code more property-owner f ie.dly BY CHANTELLE LUSEBRINK The Issaquah City Council unan- imously approved changes to the city's zoning codes involving non- conforming uses Jan. 20. Nonconforming situations are land uses or developments that do not comply with the current zoning codes, but are still considered legal. A specific site may be non- conforming because it contains either a nonconforming use, resi- dential density, development or combination of these. Such situations have grandfa- thered rights, meaning they are allowed when established and maintained over time, said James Matthews, a city senior planner. For instance, a building that was built 20 years ago in Issaquah but was not incorporated into the city at that time would have been sub- ject to codes by King County. Now that the city has incorporated that area, the building may not conform to the city's codes and is therefore a grandfathered nonconforming use. Council members requested a review of the nonconforming sec- tions of the land use code as part of the 2008 land use code amend- ments. The code amendments do several things, like simplify several noncon- forming code sections; make the codes more consistent with those of surrounding cities; distinguish dif- ferences between reconstructions and redevelopment; provide relief for property owners; clarify non- conforming rights attributed to vacant sites; and assist continued economic relief for businesses in Olde Town by clarifying noncon- forming parking situations there. Under the old codes, an owner of a nonconforming building couldn't make repairs amounting to more than 25 percent of the property's value each year. If they did, they may have triggered amendments requiring them to bring the build- ing into full compliance even if they didn't have the money to do so. The new amendments allow for general maintenance and repairs as needed. The changes also support city officials' desire to bring noncon- forming uses into compliance, or closer compliance, if possible. For instance, if a developer pur- chases a building that was a non- .conforming use and tears it down to start over, they forfeit the rights for the previous nonconforming use and must develop the new building in full compliance with the city's codes. But if the developer only wants to renovate and/or reconstruct, they can still claim right to the noncon- forming use. At that point, city offi- cials would help the developer mitt- gate the nonconforming use by find- ing ways he or she can come into closer conformity to the city's code. If that developer added 10 per- cent onto the floor plan, the city officials would perhaps have that developer add additional land- scape to the parking lot to bring it into closer compliance with the city's codes. How much a building or site changes from its original state depends on how much mitigation city officials would ask of the devel- oper. The problem city officials encountered previously was devel- opers who would tear a buil.din,g down but still try to claim the site s original nonconforming use, even though a new building was going to stand in its place, Matthews said. By claiming a nonconforming -use, the developer might try to avoid using green building materi- als or coming in line with the city's stringent impervious surface and landscaping codes. It isn't just buildings that are nonconforming, Matthews said. It can also be the land or the use of that land they sit on. Another common occurrence is buildings that don't conform to the city's critical areas buffers, like old buildings right next to Issaquah Creek. Today, buildings must be built a certain distance from the creek to protect its habitat. When the c!ty was first developing, that wasn t the case. City officials had incorporated a review of nonconforming policy sections pertaining to critical area buffers, but decided to separate "1 commend the staff. This is an extraordinary amount of work to look at the provisions in our nonconforming use policies, look at other cities and get in line with what non- conforming use means in vari- ous situations. What this does is determine our no.nconform- ing uses and work toward conformity." - Maureen McCarry Coun~ presh/ent those issues from these amend- ments due to their complexity. Discussions regarding critical area buffers and nonconforming uses are ongoing; more amend- ments are possibly on the way. "I commend the staff," Council President Maureen McCarry said. "This is an extraordinary amount of work to look at the provisions in our nonconforming use policies, look at other cities and get in line with what nonconforming use means in various situations. What this does is determine our noncon- forming uses anff work toward conformity." Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241, or clusebrink@iss- press.com. Reporter Jim Feehan con- tributed to this story. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com. BY TA1/YN ZIER COOKING IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE Rachel Lau helps 2-year-old Caitlyn Zier add orange juice to her "good luck" noodle salad at the New Year Nibbles event at Sponge. Local families got together Jan. 18 to celebrate the New Year with language classes and cooking fun. Wenxin Huang Gillis (below) teaches families how to say 'I'm hungry' in Mandarin. City Council approves exemption to traffic impact fees Change makes it easier to find tenants for large storefronts BY JIM FEEHAN AND CHANTELLE LUSEBRINK City Council members unani- mously approved amendments to several of the city's traffic impact fees Jan. 20, in hopes of making it easier to find tenants to fill vacant storefronts. The bill exempts up to 10,000 square feet of commercial develop- ment proposals from the city's traf- fic impact fees. However, during discussion of the bill Deputy Council President Fred Butler made an amendment to review the effect the exemp- tion has on the city in March 2010. At that time, council members could choose to renew, amend and or terminate the bill. While most of the attention has been focused on the downtown core and its businesses, the bill also applies to other parts of the city, said Mark Hinthorne, city planning director. A 30,000- square-toot space broken into three 10,000-square-foot spaces also qualifies for the exemption. The measure also reflects the removal of the once-proposed Southeast Bypass from the fee schedule. The update of the impact fee includes a $1.6 million reduc- tion in the city's financial contribu- tion toward the roadway capacity projects list. With the adjustments, the impact fee rate declines from about $4,800 to $3,300, a reduc- tion of 32 percent. The state's Growth Management Act authorizes cities to charge impact fees to help assure that public facilities are available to serve new development. Issaquah's transportation impact fees were first adopted in 1997 and updated in 2006. The fees are paid by developers of new projects to offset the city's cost of providing additional service, but they are also charged to tenants who change the use of an existing building. The cost to the city, in this econ- omy, is expected to be about $120,000 in impact fees officials would have otherwise collected, Hinthorne said. During times of significant growth in the city, it would have cost the city between $160,000 and $200,000. Business owners said the fees were burdensome and prohibited them from finding tenants. At the meeting, Hinthorne con- firmed that sentiment by sharing a range of typical costs associated with impact fees for small busi- nesses. Those costs can be as little as a couple thousand dollars or up to $75,000 in some cases, depend- ing on the type of business being set up, he said. "Hopefully, this stimulates folks to move forward, Butler said. Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392- 6434, ext. 239, or jfeehan@isspress.com, or Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at ext. 24I or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress, com. Tell us what you thi Carla! Did you know you could w,n $1000?! Just by filling out a readership/ market survey onlme. www. pulseresearch, com/ipress Yem e kl THE ISSAQUAH PRESS NOTICE OF NON-DISCRIMINATORY POLICY AS TO STUDENTS The school admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs and athletic and other school ldministered programs. ~TapOUr" " , .;:mvlor Lumeran/ I rescnool 745 Front Street South Issaquah, WA 98027 State of the City address cancelled Mayor Ava Frisinger was expected to give her annual State of the City address at the Jan. 21 City Council meet- ing. However, that was canceled due to a family emergency she had earlier in the week. Frisinger will give the address at the next council meeting, at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way. Park Pointe FI~OM PAGE A1 both the lower flat portion of G[[ INVOLVE[} Park Pointe and on top of the Send written slope. The mid- comments to slope area has Peter Rosen, a steep grade Issaquah and is protected Planning under the city's Department, critical areas o r d i n a n c e, p.o. Box 130/, Rosen said. Issaquah, WA a no action 98027 or alternative email to under which the peter~ciJssaq property would remain undevel- uah.wa.us. oped. Volume 1 of the statement is a summary doc- ument, providing key findings from the more extensive technical reports in Volume 2, a CD. Residents who want more details and technical information can see the CD, which includes 15 techni- cal reports about the impacts on various environmental elements. "What we're looking at here is the possible impacts to traffic, storm water, public utilities and parks and recreation this devel- opment would have," Rosen said. The draft statement process is completely separate from the Park Pointe transfer of develop- ment rights to the Issaquah Highlands proposed plan, which would preserve Park eointe, he said. After the comment period ends, a final, environmental impact statement will be pre- pared to respond to comments received, make corrections, explain how the analysis in the draft statement has been revised and how the draft statement alternatives may have been mod- ified. After the final draft statement is done, the permit review process for the master site plan and preliminary plat applications begin. Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or jfeehan@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquah- press.com.