UPDATE: Commissioners Hear Testimony on Triway Text Amendment
by Janine Gates
The Olympia Planning Commission took public testimony at its meeting January 5, 2009 regarding Triway's application to amend the text of the Urban Waterfront zoning to remove the words "floors" or "stories" from Olympia municipal code.
On January 26th, the commission is scheduled to deliberate and make a decision on the amendment. The Commission's recommendation will be forwarded to the Olympia city council. The city council will likely hold a public hearing and make their decision in March.
Triway staff offered their explanation of their request. Mort James, Triway architect, showed three examples of five story building scenarios. Charlie Kirry testified, stating that the West Bay Neighborhood Association can support Triway's proposal to eliminate the reference to "stories" in the existing building height regulations (65 feet) on the condition that no flat roof designs are allowed. "I'm impressed with the drawings here," Kirry said, referring to Triway's designs, which showed gabled roof lines.
Four others spoke against the text amendment, including Steve Conway of Sherman Street. "There should be development there, but this amendment speaks to higher buildings," said Conway.
Commissioners expressed confusion about the text amendment process and asked several questions of city staff. Commissioner Larry Leveen asked staff for a formal definition and process for text amendments. Jan Weydemeyer, city senior planner, said she would get the commissioners the information, saying, "It's brief and doesn't go into a lot of detail..."
Former Olympia mayor Bob Jacobs, in his public testimony against the amendment, thanked the commissioners for their skeptical questioning of the process, saying that text amendments reduce public involvement. "This is a dishonest process, in my opinion..." Keith Stahley, Olympia Community Planning and Development Director, admitted to the commissioners that the text amendment, "was an unusual and interesting approach," to the process.
Former planner Linda Donaldson wrote testimony to the Commissioners against the text amendment saying, "I found that every single time developers requested "more flexibility" it was their code for an underhanded and disingenuous ploy to gut the intent of local plans and regulations for their own financial gain... If these properties were not suitable for what they wanted to develop, they should not have bought them! They knew exactly what the standards were..."
The Commissioners extended written testimony on the text amendment until January 13th. Address written comments to Keith Stahley, Director of Community Planning and Development, firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 1967, Olympia, Washington 98507.
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