Edmonds City Council voted 6-0 at a special meeting Thursday to extend its moratorium on building permit applications in the downtown BD2 area until June 2, and also approved at the unanimity of the draft design standards recommended by the staff.
Councilor Laura Johnson was absent from the meeting.
The design standards are intended to address council’s concerns over a proposed 24-unit apartment building for the 600 block of Main Street, located in the BD2 area. In response to this development proposal, council at its February 15 meeting approved a two-month moratorium on building permits in the BD2 area. The moratorium, which applies to projects that are not subject to designated municipal standards for street frontages, was intended to give staff time to create interim standards to address code gaps that apply to those sites.
At its April 5 meeting, council agreed to extend the moratorium on building permits for another two weeks, after hearing feedback from residents and the city attorney that more time was needed to consider the matter. By extending the moratorium again until June 2, city staff will have time to research a topic raised in previous council discussions: whether it is appropriate to expand the boundaries of the zone map. City Designated Commercial Uses to require at least some commercial use of new structures in this area.
Thursday’s ordinance outlining the extension of the moratorium was approved following an amendment by council member Diane Buckshis, which was approved by a 5-1 vote (with council member Susan Paine dissenting). The Buckhsnis Amendment added a recital clause that outlines the impact of a 2013 ordinance – 3918 – in which the BD2 area is defined as a downtown mixed commercial use.
“To me, it’s just further acknowledgment that there are a number of ordinances on this BD2 topic that are important for us to understand,” Buckshis said.
As Edmonds senior town planner Mike Clugston explained at the March 29 council meeting, Edmonds has five downtown shopping areas. Those located around the fountain, at 5th and Main, are considered the commercial core and are designed BD1. Outside of there is the BD2 area, with mixed commerce; BD3 – towards the south end of downtown – is a convenience store; BD4, towards the southwest edge of downtown, is mixed residential and BD5 is the Arts Corridor.
Most of the BD2 area has designated street front standards (everything shown next to the blue lines in the graphic above), including floor height minimums, transparency and access at the sidewalk, and the required details at ground level.
But bordering the BD2 zone, there are parcels that do not have these designated street frontage requirements. Whether additional plots should be included in these requirements – further expanding the BD2 area – has been the subject of conversations among council members and members of the public in recent months.
The ordinance approved Thursday notes that development regulations in downtown commercial areas “may vary depending on whether the property in question fronts a designed street front.” It also states that “there is concern that existing development regulations in the BD2 area do not regulate proposed development in a way that would produce development projects that reflect community values or that were planned by previous councils. “.
The approved extension will give staff time to analyze possible extensions to the designated street front and report back to City Council by May 17. This would presumably be followed by council action to pass any appropriate revisions to the designated street front on May 24, in parallel to the lifting of the moratorium on June 2.
Draft design standards approved on Thursday reflect some changes based on council requests on Tuesday evening. The goal is to ensure that multi-family dwellings are compatible with the city center, focusing on three requirements: construction materials, private amenity space, and an amenity space or zone street side pedestrian.
– Building facades should be clad with preferred building materials, including natural stone, wood, architectural metal, brick and glass. Concrete, laminates, veneers, fiber cement products and others may be permitted by the Director of Development Services or the city’s Architectural Design Board if they duplicate the appearance of the preferred materials.
– An outdoor area equivalent to at least 10% of the project’s gross lot area must be provided as private amenity space for residents of the development. This standard can be met by a combination of balconies (cantilevered, recessed or semi-recessed), terraces, patios or courtyards for individual dwellings or the site as a whole. Based on council concerns Tuesday night about security and privacy, roof terraces have been removed as an option for private amenity space.
– An outdoor area equivalent to at least 5% of the project’s gross land area must be provided as street-side or pedestrian amenity space.
– Based on another change requested by the board on Tuesday evening, some modulation of the roof is required, with a preference for lowerings that follow the slope where such a slope exists.
— By Teresa Wippel