By Sally Gillie, Monitor
The updated design guidelines for North Kelsey have been reviewed by the Monroe Planning Commission and have passed the first reading by the city council.
The guidelines, first adopted in 2003 and updated in 2007, have been overhauled to reflect the reality that development in North Kelsey has been considerably different than the pedestrian-focused design originally intended.
“Originally it was all based on that concept of development that had a pedestrian-scale complex of buildings; there was an outdoor mall,” said Monroe’s Planning and Permitting Manager, Paul Popelka. But that development never came about the way it was designed, he said, and the city has amended its comprehensive plan accordingly. “The next logical step is updating these design guidelines.”
Chapters in the old guidelines that refer to site configuration, site planning, and circulation have undergone major revisions; other chapters dealing with architectural and landscape design have largely been kept intact.
The chapter on signage and lighting will stay in the guidelines until the city adopts a new sign code, a change that was directed by the Monroe Planning Commission. “The idea is once the sign ordinance is done we will take that out, but until then we didn’t want to have this black hole with no regulations,” said planning commissioner Dave Demarest.
The updated guidelines will also keep in phrases such as “enhances downtown circulation for pedestrians and vehicles,” and “connects and integrates other downtown activities.”
This is an intended reference to the original plan, said Popelka. “We preferred to keep it in there as a reminder that there may be some potential for improving that pedestrian network.” He said the explicit connections that were envisioned in the old Kelsey plan aren’t going to happen, but “that a pedestrian system between North Kelsey (and downtown) should lend itself to the ability to not have to drive back and forth.”
Business owner Vickie Mullen, who lobbied heavily for incorporating the connectivity language in the original guidelines, told the planning commission at an Oct. 15 public hearing that the pedestrian walkways have worked.
“The reason (I lobbied for that) was to get people to know that the historical downtown existed, and it does still have connectivity,” Mullen said. “I realize now things have changed; it’s become a more auto centric shopping area, but I think we still have a lot of people, like at Fred Meyer, who walk around town and shop. There are those who live in the downtown area, or in units above the buildings, or live in the older parts of town and walk. So this has worked.”
At the Oct. 23 city council meeting, council member Patsy Cudaback also supported looking for ways to encourage more pedestrian activity in North Kelsey. “Not necessarily the plaza that was originally intended, not the big gathering space that’s talked about in there that holds 1,000 people, but some kind of focal plaza where there might be a water feature or something, to encourage somewhat more pedestrian and milling.”
Popelka said that pulling together a larger gathering place has become difficult, with development adding smaller lots, one at a time. He added the guidelines “tried to keep in place pedestrian connections, to keep some strength in that, there are some good solid connections.”
“I just hope as we look at future development and projects we keep in mind to keep it as pedestrian-oriented as possible, as the projects come in, and keep that goal in mind as move forward,” Cudaback said.
The council is scheduled to adopt the updated guidelines on Nov. 6, a timetable in step with the city’s most recent addition to North Kelsey, the sale of five acres to the NexCore Group.
Monroe Economic Director Jeff Sax told the council that a $2.5 million transaction is expected to close at the end of October. It will be the home of the new Providence Medical Building Monroe, a 43,000 square foot multi-use medical care center that will house more than 30 medical providers.
A copy of the updated North Kelsey design guidelines can be viewed on the city’s website.
School mitigation fees
With the city’s final decision on school mitigation fees looming, Monroe Mayor Robert Zimmerman has invited Monroe Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ken Hoover and members of the Monroe School Board of Directors to attend the Nov. 6 city council meeting for an open discussion.
“My hope is we will have a more informal setting for dialogue with the School Board, should they have any questions or comments directed to council, rather than have each one get up and make a statement,” said Zimmerman.
The city staff will make a presentation on school mitigation fees at the meeting, and Zimmerman said he has invited the School Board to make a statement following that presentation if they want to do so.
The council has two agenda items relating to school impact fees on its Nov. 6 agenda.
The first is a proposed change to the city’s comprehensive plan to remove regulatory language regarding school mitigation fees and the rationale for the city’s current 25 percent discount rate.
The second agenda item deals with refunding about $940 in impact fees that were inadvertently overcharged to builders last year. The overcharge happened because the city did not amend its fee resolution in 2011 after it adopted that year’s Monroe School District capital facilities plan. That fee overages affected 16 building permits in the past year.
Not on the Nov. 6 agenda is a current proposal before the council to increase the builders’ discount on school impact fees from its current rate of 25 percent to 50 percent, adopting that change into the city’s municipal code.
The Monroe Planning Commission has voted 6-1 in favor of both amending the city’s comprehensive plan and adopting the 50 percent discount. The larger discount lowers the fee builders have to pay for new home construction. Fees on new single-family construction would drop from $2,976 per home to $1,984; and fees on multi-family homes would drop from $4,804 to $3,172.
Roosevelt Road rezone
The council is moving ahead with a rezone of about 70 acres east of Roosevelt Road that was annexed to the city in 2007, an action that will make the zoning consistent with the land use designation the area was given two years ago in the city’s comprehensive plan. That designation allows for five to seven homes per acre, or UR 6000.
The city’s rezone action is prompted by a developer’s application for a planned residential development, Bear Mountain, on 20 acres in the southeast section of the rezone area. The proposed development is located west and north of the Foothills neighborhood and could have up to 72 lots; the proposal is based on UR 6000 zoning.
New homeless shelter
Monroe Public Works Director Brad Feilberg reported on the progress of the Sky Valley Cold Weather Alliance, which hopes to open a shelter for the homeless on Nov. 15. He said the Monroe YMCA is now taking donations on behalf of the shelter.