Know Your Planning Commission 7.25.12

***This is a recap of the planning commission meeting. It will run after each of their meetings. It is written by District 3 resident and Planning Commission Member Chris McNutt.***

The Planning Commission is a Council appointed yet independent body of citizens who act as a vetting/advisory organization for land use and zoning to the City Council. The following is a personal account and may not reflect the opinions of other Planning Commission members.

It was brought to my attention by another Planning Commissioner the above disclaimer was not prominent enough. I had hoped this was clear, but I’d like to reiterate this is a personal account of the meeting and topics. This is my point of view alone, there are those who may not agree with everything I write here. For those who wish an unfiltered version of the meeting. the audio recording and minutes will be available online soon. Now, on with the show…

It was a dark stormy night on July 25th, 2012 AD; the meeting was long and at times somewhat contentious. Well, somewhere there was probably a storm where it was dark. In Puyallup, it was bright and quite warm. Michelle Ochs was even kind enough to come in extra early to cool the council chambers for us and the citizens.

A fairly large crowd of citizens had gathered hoping to discuss the planned halfway house in district three. Fortunately, Councilman Tom Swanson came in to discuss this with them, since it wasn’t a topic on our agenda. Please note there is a public meeting planned for next Wednesday, August 1st at 6:30 in the council chambers on the 5th floor of City Hall to address this very issue.

The citizens departed leaving a sole onlooker, Councilman John Hopkins, and the meeting proceeded.

At hand was the continued discussion of the CBD/CBD-Core building heights. I’ll let my previous article [Know Your Planning Commission 6.27.12] stand as a primer for the descriptions of the two zones but I’d like to add the following map to better illustrate the geography we’re talking about.

We had been given direction by the City Council to “review building heights and allowances in the CBD-Core”. This can take on many forms. Katie Baker provided us with the following matrix with examples for possible courses of action. Note that she also included a generalized process flow for each example which would be needed to complete any of these specific tasks.

None of these options are particularly swift. Anything requiring a Comprehensive Plan amendment would likely need to be delayed and included within the annual update cycle, the next of which begins in January 2013. Katie noted as this is a priority item for the council, we’ll be moving forward in working out the best path to take.

Changing the building heights has a few rippling effects, these include:

  • The Downtown Revitalization Neighborhood Plan (Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 9) is based on a long term vision which includes the 65ft height allowances of the CBD-Core.
  • Eliminating or altering these zones has effects on existing land owners as well as prospective buyers and developers.

An immediate and direct amendment of the building height allowances within the CBD-Core would leave a lot of inconsistencies in other plans and design guidelines. As a result, much discussion centered around which direction to take to overhaul those plans to include desired change.

It is my opinion (mine alone, see above) that we have two choices for action.

  1. Seek further clarifying direction from the City Council as to the end goals they envisioned.
  2. Work with each other and the public to form a revised vision of the downtown area with the intent of aligning it to the reason we were tasked to review this.

At this point, I believe they are equally appropriate, though we’d need to do the latter regardless.

This is going to be very complicated as there are many moving parts. Commissioner Curt Gimmestad is the only one among us who went through the changes (the first time around) and he’s already proving to be a huge asset in the discussions.

This meeting is just a stepping stone along a somewhat lengthy path. The next step will look at the options presented to us in more detail and move on from there. It is likely we’ll see some public meetings and many more discussions surrounding the vision for downtown.

The difficulty (and benefit) of a vision for the city (and by extension, this process) is that there is no single correct answer. There are however likely many wrong answers. Correctness is a range, not a bullseye and some dreams and visions cannot coexist within the same plan. I know the council and commissioners are all interested in what the stakeholders and city residents wish to see our city evolve to. If we stay true to those dreams and wishes we should end up in the right place.

The meeting then moved to citizen comments where Councilman John Hopkins took to the mic to voice his opinions as a private citizen. He expressed an interest in the preservation of the downtown core, echoing what he had heard on the campaign trail last year.

For more specific information about the meeting, please keep your eyes on the City web site for the audio recording and minutes of the meeting (or click for a copy of the agenda and supplied documents) If you have questions or concerns about this (or any other city matter) please reach out to any of the City Council or Planning Commission members. Also, feel free to comment below. I’ll try my best to answer questions.

Chris McNutt
District 3
Planning Commissioner


Filed under Chris McNutt, Planning Commission

3 responses to “Know Your Planning Commission 7.25.12

  1. John Hopkins

    ……..this summary is the official opinion of everyone on the Planning Commision…..right?

  2. Jeff Moss

    Chris, I really appreciate the information and the perspecitive you bring to this complex subject. Just think, if this were easy, anyone could be on the planning commission 🙂

    At a minimum, I believe we need a historic district with building height set at the height of the tallest historic building.

    • (just my opinion here)

      I think the long term health of our community requires the preservation of the “feel” of downtown. That can mean different things to different people, but angling toward a small Historic Zone (not the entire CBD-Core) would do that for me. I believe the idea behind a restriction of the building heights to be a quick/temporary measure while something more vetted is put in place.

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