Know Your Planning Commission 3.27.13

***This series of articles are recaps of planning commission meetings.  They will run after most meetings and are written by District 3 resident, City Council candidate and Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission, Chris McNutt.***

The Planning Commission is a Council appointed yet independent body of citizens who act as a vetting/advisory panel 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.

The meeting on March 27th, 2013 covered two primary topic, with a bonus election of new officers.

  1. Downtown Character

  2. Miscellaneous Code Amendments

The evening began with nominations and a couple votes. During the first meeting of each March a new Chair and Vice-Chair are selected for the commission. This year, with little fanfare (the town crier position remains sadly unfunded in the 2013 budget) Steve Hastings was nominated and elected chair, and I was nominated and elected Vice-Chair.  There is some kind of Miami Vice joke in here somewhere, but I have been asked to tone down the humor and zombie references… plus, nothing comes to mind.

This meeting marked the addition of two new commissioners, Shelly Krashowetz and Aaron Couch, the return of commissioner Curt Gimmestad and the first meetings without commissioners Robin Ordonez and Leon Leonard.

This report is overdue and will be brief, but links to the recording and minutes can be found below.

1.     Downtown Character 

We once again addressed the preservation of the downtown character, which originally started as an analysis of building heights and seems to have culminated in the bottling of the “feel” of downtown.  Since we had some new commissioners there was an in-depth overview of what we discussed on the many previous occasions this was before us.

In the end we are left with re-examining the design guidelines as well as the appropriateness of a zoning overlay.

Our goal is to divine the elixir that is the “feeling of downtown.” This could be entirely done with design guidelines, or it could encompass the overlay mentioned above.  We’re not likely to find out the best and most complete solution until we start drafting it and working through the possibilities.

Personally I want to make sure it’s as light of a touch as possible. I don’t want to impose constricting rules on the businesses downtown but instead guide possible changes in such a way that they maintain and preserve the character instead of threaten it.

This is not to suggest that we need to prevent growth and development, but instead we need that development to embody the spirit of Puyallup.

2.     Miscellaneous Code Amendments

A good deal of what we talked about were housekeeping items in the code. Other items included the proposed codification of our common practices so everyone would have a predictable experience when dealing with the city.

We also took the time to discuss possible alterations to our Bed and Breakfast ordinances. We were told it’s not a common request, but there is one pending.

Right now, Bed and Breakfasts are limited to RS-04 and RS-06 which are the zones where the smaller lot sizes with predominantly single family homes are located.  Even within these two zones a prospective home lodging proprietor would need to live onsite in the main home, and acquire a conditional use permit through the hearing examiner process. The current ordinances can be found under PMC 20.20.015 subsection 12.

I looked into how some other cities do it, and I found some good examples. In the cities I looked at, Bed and Breakfasts were allowed outright in almost every residential and mixed use zone, rarely requiring a conditional use permit. Some other zones also had allowances, though a direct comparison with Puyallup is less apt. I haven’t yet been presented with the possible downsides of allowing them outright, but it doesn’t seem risky.

In fact, given some modest boundaries (X number of rooms for example), Bed and Breakfasts could become a great asset to the city, particularly around Fair time when lodging is at a premium. The Puyallup Fair is a huge part of the city and we should take advantage of it’s presence and prominence.

There is a special “heads in beds” tax for hotels which is used, in theory, entirely to pay for things that benefit the hotels, motels and their customers called LTAC (Lodging Tax Advisory Committee). Though the information was not on hand at our meeting, I inquired as to what the thresholds are for LTAC.

I also felt that we should revisit the detached dwelling (mother-in-law) ordinances. Detached dwelling units and LTAC need to be considered as a part of this complete Bed and Breakfast… ordinance.

For more specific information about the meeting, please see the following list of resources.

If you have questions or concerns about this (or any other city matter) please reach out to the City Council, myself or any other Planning Commission member. Also, feel free to comment below. I’ll try my best to answer questions.

We are adjourned.

Chris McNutt
District 3 City Council Candidate
Planning Commissioner


Filed under Chris McNutt, Planning Commission

2 responses to “Know Your Planning Commission 3.27.13

  1. Toby

    The LTAC has always been a puzzle to me. Is it really a committee, who is on it, how much money is collected, how has it actually been spent, are there audits??? Perhaps it is just mis-named and is just a hotel tax (we’ll tax you because you have a hotel) and the money just goes into the general

    • Steven Shores

      It’s my understanding that the local motels/hotels collect the tax for each room they rent. The committee who determines how it is spent is made up of members from the motel/hotel community. There may be other members. The funds can only be spent on things that will promote tourism. One would think the committee would spend it on such which benefits them. It can not be put into the general fund and is monitored and tracked carefully.

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