Tumwater City Council reviews amendments to development code


Tumwater City Council reviewed four amendments to its development code during a work session on Tuesday, January 9. The proposed changes are part of the city’s annual housekeeping amendments, which the Planning Commission already reviewed and recommended for approval.

Undergrounding of utilities

The first amendment clarifies language in the code so that all new and relocated electrical and communication facilities must be placed underground.

Councilmember Leatta Dahlhoff inquired who bears the responsibility when a new development necessitates undergrounding utilities in other nearby existing developments. As an example in which such a case would be relevant, Dahlhoff asked if residents' utility bills in affordable or low-income housing would be affected by the undergrounding of nearby utilities.

Planning Manager Brad Medrud answered that the requirement only applies to the new and redevelopment projects.

“If there's an existing use there that is not changing …that existing use doesn't have to do anything,” Medrud said.

New uses for city town center

The second amendment adds new permitted uses for developments along the main street of the mixed-use subdistrict in the city’s town centeron New Market Street SW and a segment of 73rd Avenue SW that intersects with New Market.

Under the proposed changes, uses such as professional services, medical clinics, child day care centers, and child mini-day care centers would be permitted for the first floor of buildings along the main street.

Councilmember Joan Cathey inquired how medical clinics are defined, adding that there have been instances in other cities in which drug clinics have been classified as medical clinics.

Medrud said that the city’s zoning code does not allow for such uses for medical clinics.

“We do define medical clinic in our zoning code and I don't believe that it allows for those particular uses. Those are typically things that are handled under a central public facility,” Medrud said.

Tumwater staff Erika Smith-Erickson added that the city’s code defines a medical clinic as “a place where medical or dental care is provided to persons on an outpatient basis by professionals in the healthcare field.”

Open space requirements for manufactured home parks

The third amendment updates the code to ensure open space requirements for manufactured home parks that are not subject to the city’s land division process.

Medrud clarified that the code only applies to new and redeveloped manufactured home parks. Dahlhoff questioned the likelihood that the proposed change would be relevant when most manufactured home parks are being sold, to which Medrud agreed.

Should a home park be redeveloped, Dahlhoff asked if the proposed change could impact the rent of manufactured home parks since property owners would have less residential space due to open space requirements.

Medrud said there would need to be a substantial change to the redeveloped property before the requirement takes effect. Considering the existing home parks in the city, Medrud said that he does not see this requirement being triggered even for redevelopment.

“Looking at our existing parks and  with the exception of one or two, almost all of them I think are pretty built out,” Medurd said adding, “I'm really not seeing that this is going to be triggered for redevelopment.”

Industrial buildings above 65 feet

The last amendment adds language to the code, establishing a process for acquiring a conditional use permit for industrial buildings 65-90 feet tall. The proposed language adds nine minimum conditions for allowing such buildings for conditional use.

As several light industrial properties are located near the Olympia Regional Airport, Councilmember Michael Althauser suggested that the Federal Aviation Administration might not even allow the city to permit buildings above 65 feet.

Medrud said that industrial buildings above 65 could be built on New Market properties that are not within the runway zones of the airport.

“There's a portion directly west of the airport that could potentially have these heights if they so choose,” Medrud said adding, “But those areas say north or south of airport runways are immediately adjacent to those areas, those are the areas that they wouldn't be able to do that.”

According to documents prepared for the meeting, the amendments would return to the council for approval on February 6.


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