WARNING: The following information is LONG, boring to many, incomprehensible to others, and history that repeats itself!
The Silver Beach Neighborhood recently debated adopting a list of policy measures to address the issue of protecting the Lake Whatcom Reservoir.
Many of the items on the list were recognizable as elements of earlier discussions during the deliberations on the City's 'Silver Beach Ordinance', designed in response to the Dept of Ecology's 303 (d) listing of the lake for fecal cliform and dissolved oxygen levels.
Some were adopted and incorporated into the Ordinance, while others were not for various reasons.
It may be useful to revisit those earlier discussions again as a reminder of what was considered during those initial eight public meetings, which resulted in a list of unanimous, or near-unanimous, recommendations that were adopted.
The adopted recommendations -from meeting No. 9- were the subject of my 8/8/07 blog.
This general subject was also discussed or rferenced in blogs from October 9, 12 & 13 and Dec 3
Here is a Summary of the July 25, 2000 meeting:
1. Attendance: All present, except B. Bliss, A. Renaud, B. Ryan.
Guest: P. Decker
• Codes & Ordinances Worksheet
• Feeling Smart? (a test)
• Redesigning the American Lawn: A Search for Environmental Harmony (excerpts)
• Nine (9) Articles from Center for Watershed Protection Website: http://www.cwp.org
Crafting Better Urban Watershed Protection Plans
MUDDY WATER IN - MUDDY WATER OUT?
On Watershed Education
The Architecture of Stream Buffers
The Economics of Watershed Protection
The Importance of Imperviousness
The Peculiarities of Perviousness
Understanding Watershed Behavior
Urban Pesticides: From the Lawn to the Stream
3. Comments by participants:
• Time is closing for these meetings and I am very much interested in stating my position to finalize a draft that would be effective and practical in the field to work with. I have changed my position somewhat, learned a lot of valuable information, and would like to see a few changes from the emergency ordinance.
1. Size of pervious area,
- change from 2000 sqft. to 2500 sqft.
- from 15% to 20% for larger lots
Current square footage and percentage is impractical on certain lots. If an individual wants larger square footage, a property exchange as discussed, makes good sense. Also, certain types of paving blocks for improved impervious surfaces work well with patios and driveways.
-Trade-offs from removing large pervious areas such as big driveways, patios, sport courts in exchange for new additions.
- Professionally landscaped designs approved by planning staff
- Designs and inspections of outdated storm drainage systems (i.e. new and improved acceptable storm systems)
4. Construction Time
-Six and a half month construction period rather than five months (too restrictive)
-April 1 to October 15
- For this trade off, tighten up construction runoff designs and inspections
I must say that as a builder, aware of the new zoning laws, it does make me mad to see on the way to my job sites, homeowners pouring driveways and patios, unaware or aware, of what is going on while the builders are held to the law. As a builder, homeowner, and local resident all my life, this is my lake also and like you, I would like a law that protects the lake and is practical.
• Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Program: Peer Review Committee’ s comments regarding modeling the lake to determine TMDL’s. concluded that major data gaps exist, which currently make even preliminary modeling not feasible. More data on precipitation and flow monitoring to determine an accurate water budget is needed before this can be done with reasonable certainty. This finding suggests we may need to be even more careful about protecting the watershed. One of the city’s objectives is to identify the loading rates (TMDLs) that come from the urbanized basins to determine whether they are at, below, or above capacity and what land use modifications are necessary to limit this loading. It is disappointing to learn that more data must be collected before meaningful modeling of the lake can even begin. This is particularly true with the lake now being 303 (d) listed and subject to a non-degradation condition, at the same time development is continuing and a more comprehensive stormwater program is now underway. If a legally, politically and economically viable case can be made, the best course of action might be to cease any further impacts until that information is available, modeling results are known and TMDLs are quantified. The good news is that all of the proven land use management options before us to be considered are in the top 10 list of ideas we will address tonight. Land use is the ultimate BMP, and this lends even more importance to the things we are doing here in this Citizen’s Task Force.
• Identification of objectives and what we want to accomplish tonight:
-focus and build on last meeting’s (6) flip chart topics: 1)impervious area credits, 2)plat consolidation, 3)preservation of natural vegetation, 4)restoration of natural vegetation, 5) stormwater management, 6) stormwater utility rate adjustment
- ten ideas most worthy of consideration
- menu of ideas likely to have major positive impacts on protecting the watershed, but which require broader, different mechanisms than SBO to implement
- list of most counterproductive requirements that currently apply
- codes and ordinances worksheet
Summary of Ideas for Possible Application to SB Ordinance:
• List of “Top 10” Ideas worthy of consideration - in order of observed demonstrated prioritized impact:
1. Clearing Land Destroys native vegetation
2. Loss of Buffers Streams, lake, steep slopes, wetlands
3. Grading Activities Disturbs soil
4. Compaction of Soil Heavy or repeated use
5. Imperviousness (from any cause)
6. Density/Intensity of Use (urbanized uses)
7. Transportation Facilities Urban > Rural
8. Sanitary Facilities & Failures Collective overflows of Sewers & Septic Systems
9. Use of Yard Chemicals Fertilizers, Pesticides, Herbicides
10. Maintenance Activities Paved surfaces, structures, yards
• COB has a code requirement (subdivision code) that requires a 60’ ROW for through streets, a 50’ ROW for cul-de-sacs, and allows down to a 40’ ROW, with special approval, but this never seems to happen. To allow a 40’ ROW, a demonstration must be made that there is adequate room for public facilities, utilities, and the associated maintenance thereof. Difficult to do this under existing practice. The right-of-way width also drives the setbacks. The entire ROW width, almost always in new construction, ends up being completely obliterated by clearing and grading. That also includes easements for utilities, outside the ROW. That is so that utilities vendors can have their own turf, without overlapping the city’s turf. A question in the Codes & Ordinances Worksheet asks, “do you allow utilities placed underneath paved areas”? The city of Bellingham currently does not, and this practice helps maintain a separation of contract areas, and minimizes structural potential interference, which is OK in most instances. But, in a watershed, the effect of the larger area being cleared during construction is not desirable in protecting the lake.
• COB had, until recently, a vegetation spray program on the shoulders of minimum standard streets, but this has been discontinued.
• Regarding the codes and ordinances worksheet, questions that come up most frequently are those pertaining to road standards, ROW widths, and setbacks. Currently, COB can only address this by variance, on those projects seeking relief from these things; in essence, finding ways to provide access for a greater number of lots with a lesser number of streets, and to get some setbacks and ROW relief.
• An example of where the transfer of impervious credits (TIC) concept we discussed might be applied is in the NE corner of the city, an area where a number of substandard lots await road development. The result of that road development happening would be to maximize development. Current COB code mandates extension of roads and utilities across the full frontage of the property to the next property, as opposed to extending them just enough to allow the proposed development until the time comes for additional extensions. So this type of situation might be considered, in developing recommendations from this group.
• The neighborhood plan for Silver Beach hasn’t been updated since 1980. It is on a to-do list with other neighborhood plans, while we fix broader citywide codes, which have become remarkably deficient over time. One of these important, broader issues involves dealing with the Lake Whatcom Watershed much more effectively, which of course is what the SB Ordinance attempts to do. The City Council has agreed with the approach that, rather than wait, use a cookie cutter, or face one day at a time, lets solve those things that are creating greater risks and impacting more than one neighborhood, and get these done first. We can always go back and clean up the more individual parts later.
• In order to change the codes, we must go through a citizen involvement process, a planning commission hearing and a council hearing. That is part of the reason we are using staff time to participate in this process, so we can focus on those important situations like the watershed. Neighborhood plans; street construction standards, Bellingham municipal code (chapter 13); cluster development in the subdivision code (chapter 18); setbacks, feasible area, landscape, other land use code elements (chapter 20); all of these elements are threaded throughout Bellingham municipal code, some of which is easier to change than others. Timing and required process (some of which has some administrative flexibility) both have to be considered if we are to come up with something positive to recommend. Perhaps we could add variance criteria to the subdivision code that allows for design revisions that are more functional, lesser impacting to the environment, or otherwise created in the public interest. Variance criteria, historically, have been there to provide relief from odious requirements as opposed to encouraging better designs.
• If we required cluster development, wouldn’t that negate using TDRs from other properties that don’t have the road access? Cluster as defined now doesn’t speak to density but rather the form that allowable density takes. So, existing lots of record could not likely be further subdivided for the most part. You can look in your inventory list and see the number of parcels that could be subdivided. There are two developments in the works right now, one of which could benefit from a cluster. The other looks like it could be a cluster, but came from a different origin in its zoning (single family, with some open space provided). But, the quandary is that you can’t reduce road length and still get more lot access efficiency in a number of areas. It might negate impervious area transfer if you adopted a style, which makes it more feasible financially to develop all those existing lots of record on unimproved ROWs. I could see a potential where that might work in reverse.
• Back to our objective for tonight. We have been meeting for a number of weeks now, and we need to come to closure on what’s expected of us and in what form. This has been a very educational process, but how can we help facilitate the council on this, and what feedback do they want from us towards some form of draft ordinance revisions to the existing SBO? Basically, we need to gravitate towards those areas the group feels are most likely to make improvements in the ordinance itself, or to be recommended for other code modification processes. This discussion is giving us a basis of comparison for options we can consider to fit into the SBO. It is both a required education, and a prioritization of the identified options. We are proceeding well down this path right now, and soon the question will come as to which of these ideas we can pick by consensus and express as recommendations. Recognize that we are not going to be able to change much overnight. This is another of those places where we have to expand our minds a bit in order to see the bigger picture of possibilities, before being able to refocus on the specific job at hand, which is to see what we can do to improve this ordinance. We are on the path of trying to integrate the information we have learned, categorize it, then re-categorize it again, using these priority lists as a guide to see where we can get more bounce to the ounce, and finally apply these resulting concepts to the ordinance itself. There are some very specific notions we can speak to here. The Silver Beach Ordinance in its current form doesn’t do anything about the transportation facilities, right-of-way widths, street standards or sidewalks. It also does not require vegetation preservation.
• Do you want us to talk about a particular subject as to whether or not there should be some particular change regarding that?
You can talk about it or you can move right to it. You can say ‘how about this’, you can roll call it, any means of getting to a group decision is OK. For next week we’ll take all the information generated to date, including flip charts of ideas, concentrated recommendations, stuff within and outside the ordinance, and craft what fits into the ordinance, taking out what doesn’t. We will make sure that this comes back to you as a priority list of things that you can recommend or defer. Then you can pursue those agreed elements subject to council endorsement in the proper arenas, whether they are proper plans of subdivision code, BMC street standards, or a draft no yard chemical ordinance, etc. There is a huge opportunity to help the watershed, both within and outside of the SB Ordinance. Do whatever you think is in the public interest. We have already come to the point very early on, where we recognized that the roads are the biggest problem. That is probably where we need to start. We don’t need to write the language. We just need to convey to the council that we are behind the concept of rewriting the transportation portion, with some kind of prohibition against yard chemicals, a landscape requirement in the planning process, a TIC program, etc. Whatever it happens to be.
• Would these recommendations include any kind of a credit situation? Lets put it this way: if you chose to put your building footprint farther away from the shoreline, as opposed to closer to it, that would be better. So, also to the extent that you can retain your native vegetation. For open space buffers, if 25’ is the minimum requirement, and you can enhance that by 10, 15, 25 feet, and that increases the net benefit and is more effective in protecting the watershed. But, to have the city giving retroactive credit for prior open space would not be likely. The city can’t do anything else with it as it exists, even though but the owner can’t build on it, can’t use it, can’t touch it, can’t dig it, and gets no credit for a voluntary act. This can really burn the mind!
• Most Counter-productive Watershed Practices, allowed or specified per Current COB Codes:
1. Urban Density (Inherently most difficult situation)
2. Transportation Facilities Automobile & related Sub Topics:
a) Right-of-Way Width (drives setbacks)
b) Street Width
c) Easements for Utilities (20’ - not allowed under paving)
e) Required Paving
3. Parking Spaces (2 required per residential home)
4. Front Yard Set-Backs 60’/50’ ROW; 30’/25’ from centerline + 20’ utility easement = longer driveways, pipestems
5. Lack of Cluster Designation (watershed-wide)
6. Lack of Landscaping Requirements 30% (min) Open Space – even this can be graveled
7. No Chemicals Prohibition Restrict use of Fertilizers, Pesticides, Herbicides, Oil, etc?
8. Car Washing Phosphate nutrients/ use Public Works Kit for fund raisers**
9. Weak Boating Regulations Only addresses safety, not fueling, dumping
** [Note: The Public Works Department has a kit that they lend out for fund-raiser car washes. If you want to have a car wash in a parking lot, they can provide wash area containment and control the run-off to the nearest storm drain grate, which is fitted with an inserted basin and sump pump. The dirty wash water is then hosed from this confined containment system to the nearest sanitary sewer, where it belongs. Without this kit, the wash water and the suds (PO4 nutrients) all goes to the nearest storm drain on the existing topography, or flows directly into a stream or the lake. This is a very bad practice, not stream, bay or lake-friendly!]
• We have all these substandard lots here in SB, sized at 5000 SF, in an area supposed to be zoned for 20,000 SF. This draws us to this market question: having already developed the lake and now trying to slow it down, one way to slow it down would be to not build upon these small lots. The next thing we should consider is how we protect the economic interests of these landowners. We don’t have to be clearing these lots, because we shouldn’t be building on 5000 SF lots in the watershed. A home with 2000 SF impervious surface, covers 40% of these lots, when we know that 15% should be the maximum allowed, overall. Looking at the Lot Inventory List, there are many substandard lots left in the 470 or so undeveloped lots. If this number could be reduced, a significant reduction in potential building could happen. If all these can’t be built on because of the necessity to protect the lake, we’ll need to find a way to compensate the owners.
• Lot coverage chart (per current SBO):
Acre % Lot Size Imperv SF Cover % Bonus1 SF Cover1 % Bonus2 SF Cover2 % Bonus3 SF Cover3 % Bonus4 SF Cover4 %
• Lot coverage chart:
A = Acre % = *
B = Lot Size
C = Imperv SF
D = Cover %
E = Bonus1 SF
F = Cover1 %
G = Bonus2 SF
H = Cover2 %
I = Bonus3 SF
J = Cover3 %
K = Bonus4 SF
L = Cover4 %
A B C D E F G H I J K L
5000 2000 40 178 43.6 500 50 750 55 1000 60
6000 2000 33.3 178 36.3 500 41.7 750 45.8 1000 50
7200 2000 27.8 178 30.3 500 34.7 750 38.2 1000 41.7
10000 2000 20 178 21.8 500 25 750 27.5 1000 33.3
12000 2000 16.7 178 18.2 500 20.8 750 22.9 1000 25
13333 2000 15 178 16.3 500 18.8 750 20.6 1000 22.5
*33.3 14520 2178 15 0 15 322 17.2 572 18.9 812 20.7
16666 2500 15 0 15 0 15 250 16.5 500 18
18333 2750 15 0 15 0 15 0 15 250 16.4
20000 3000 15 0 15 0 15 0 15 0 15
*50 21780 3267 15 0 15 0 15 0 15 0 15
23333 3500 15 0 15 0 15 0 15 0 15
26666 4000 15 0 15 0 15 0 15 0 15
*100 43560 6534 15 0 15 0 15 0 15 0 15
Total Imperv: 2000 2178 2500 2750 3000
[apologies for the complicated table]
• An example of how lot assembly could be employed is illustrated by lots zoned as mixed-use on Lakeway Drive. Here, the minimum commercial lot size is 10,000 SF, but the minimum plat size is 5,000 SF. This means that lots must be assembled to meet the commercial lot size criteria. But, single family residential homes can be built on these 5,000 SF lots. In this case, adjacent lots are assembled, but in SB the vacant lots are scattered, with little adjacency.
• Non-waterfront, undeveloped lots in SB can be valued at up to $75k to $95k. Would TDRs likely work in this situation? How would a fair market worth be determined? What about those who could only afford these smaller lots for their dream home? Maybe because these are in this particular watershed is enough justification for some prohibition, with compensation to owners.
• Looking at the lot coverage chart, all substandard lots qualify for a higher than 15% impervious area, meaning they carry a greater proportional impact. It would seem even more critical to reduce these impacts in the watershed.
• In another lot assembly example on South Hill; if more than one adjacent lot has a common owner, these can’t be subdivided, but its OK to build on assembly of 2 or 3 lots. Still, this doesn’t solve the problem for single lot owners.
• Three ways of allowing building: existing lots of record, multiple lots and subdivide. Staff could the feasibility of special building conditions in SB, using the following 3-step justification: Many lots are substandard in size; City Council decided small lots were OK previously; circumstances have substantially changed since earlier the decision. In light of new facts, the CC may wish to reconsider earlier decisions and revisit SB zoning. This may be a viable concept to consider.
• Value of a non-waterfront, undeveloped, 5000 SF lot in SB is probably closer to $50,000. If 75 to 80% of this price were made available as a credit, how could we pay for taking this lot out of service? A market must be created, and perhaps other owners could pay for additional impervious area.
• A Land Acquisition program, like the one introduced on 7/17/00, could assist in getting this work done, using both public & private money. Lots would need to be prioritized in the watershed. A suite of tools could be developed to accomplish watershed protection goals, including outright land purchase, TICs, TDRs, conservation easements, and the like. Since the SB Interim Ordinance has now been extended until 1/24/01, this could provide time to incorporate such a program as part of the final ordinance. The most effective method would be a prohibition coupled with compensation. Next, would be TICs & TDRs.
• What about clustering or assembling small lots? Would the allowed impervious areas be additive? If you combine 2 small lots and build 1 house that’s preferable to building 2 houses. Maybe not allow full 100% of impervious area on 2nd lot. This reduces density and is doable. Could consider pairing up small NE corner lots with large waterfront lots needing more impervious area. This could be a feasible and fair solution, if a willing buyer and seller can be found. Should this be an option or requirement is for CC to decide. Under what conditions would this be OK?
• At what size is a lot considered unbuildable in the watershed? Some homes are too small, even at 70% lot coverage, as along Barkley Blvd. On a larger waterfront lot, how does an owner get more impervious area? How would this be valued? How could this type of opportunity be created? Who would create the market? Could COB do this and buy & bank the land or rights? A necessity for public acquisition is currently lacking. If maximum lot coverage is “X”, the only way to add more impervious area is to buy up. A similar banking system exists now by COB ordinance, which relates to wetland mitigation. SBO currently states the greater of 15% or 2000 SF is allowed, but if relief is wanted, what is trade-off? No mechanism yet exists.
• Would a moratorium be acceptable? Next preference would be to set a minimum buildable lot size. This size could be obtained by lot consolidation or a TDR/TIC mechanism. COB could act as initial buyer/banker, create a revolving fund when lots/rights are sold.
• Discussion of minimum lot sizes: (SB) Area 4 (zoned 20,000 SF) has about 1/3 of all prospective lots, many substandard; Area 3 (7200 SF); Area 6 (6000 SF); Area 1 (10,000 to 15,000 SF). In SB overall, lots range from 5,000 SF to 20,000 SF.
If 20,000 SF were picked as the minimum lot size, then all smaller sized lots would need to buy up to that size in order to build.
• Looking at the lot coverage chart, 2000 SF is often considered too small. If you have a 20,000 SF lot, maybe you could have 3000 SF, but would need to buy up TICs from other property (unattached) to get this. Or, you could buy four 5,000 SF lots to total 20,000 SF and get the 3000 SF. Staff can determine the impact of this type of scenario. Most people want larger lots and larger footprints. An unintended consequence of this might be more building is made possible by those who can afford it.
• Could set a maximum footprint at 2000 SF, and require buying up from this base. But SBO already allows 3000 SF at 20,000 SF lot size (15%). A 2000 SF footprint on a 5000 SF lot equates to 40% lot coverage, which is not a pro-rata share of impervious surface. Lot assembly should be made possible, independent of adjacency. This reduces density, which ranks high on impacts list.
On a 13,333 SF lot, 15% impervious surface equals 2000 SF. We could set this as a limit.
• Impervious surface is only being counted on a lot by lot basis; what about road impacts? [None of this is going my way, so I’m having another chocolate!] The lot consolidation idea creates a market, but currently this is limited to adjacent property. If the only way to get more Impervious area is to buy it, then that supports a market which could use private dollars, not just public dollars.
• If we pick a minimum lot size, then we can factor in roads to determine the greater impacts. If ultimately we pick 13,333 SF as minimum lot size, then owners must buy up to this size. This would help protect interests of smaller lot owners. [I think the original SBO was just fine!] We must be fair and address recent subdivisions that have fully complied with zoning. ‘Recent’ can be defined as either a) since new subdivision code became effective, or b) since zoning was implemented. Important point: when lots are developed per subdivision code or allowed use, these take precedence over existing lots of record. This will need addressing legally. Before 1964 all lots were platted. Only 4 plats have been approved, but remain undeveloped. Need to determine how many lots this represents to perform impact analysis. We could vote on supporting density reduction by lot consolidation.
• What about watershed protection measures? What are the most important items? What about the TMDL problem? If a moratorium were imposed, how long would it take to get these results? The minimum lot size question and banking systems require hard numbers on potential impacts, like number of units reduced for each scenario. If all lots of record were required to be 20,000 SF and lot consolidation were allowed, then a big impact could be achieved, perhaps a reduction of 1/3 to 1/2 of the current potential. Need to crunch the numbers. Also, impacts of clearing & buffer rules need factoring in, plus transportation impacts are very important.
• Transportation is also a part of “Imperviousness” in the table. We must think of people and safety when considering narrower streets and sidewalks on one side, etc. Variable answers are possible when weighing public safety against transportation facilities. Some towns and resorts prefer narrow lanes, gravel over paving, etc. These decisions are often value and lifestyle judgements. Road standards are proportional to density, with lower density requiring narrower roads, less concern for parking, etc. At a 1/2 acre (20,000 SF) lot zoning, less roads are needed. If people build on 5000 SF lots, then you need a better road system to separate people from cars. If a 1/2 acre minimum lot size is set, then perhaps a different road standard would be appropriate. CC can decide this. Can consider new roads and reconstruction of existing roads.
• New developments & roads: Per COB GIS map, there are potentially 130 acres of roads in SB, of which 30 acres are undeveloped. There are a large number of lots in the NE corner, which don’t have a road yet. If a minimum standard 20’ road were allowed, this is too small for parking, so gravel shoulders are available for walking. If a 24’ to 28’ wide street is built, then on-street parking is allowed and we also need sidewalks, because children have been displaced by cars. In the code checklist, one recommendation is for 18’ to 20’ roads and no on-street parking. Big contrast between newer streets like Barkley Blvd and Britton Road, which are wide, with sidewalks on both sides, and older streets like Northshore Drive, which are 20’ wide, with 1 gravel shoulder and sidewalk on one side. Northshore carries more traffic and works, although with more congestion it can get scary in spots.
• Remember that the single biggest impact on the watershed is development. Of the 500 lots left in SB, majority is undersized, plus new development brings in new roads. This is what generates demand for more roads. This could be a good opportunity to redevelop the transportation system to become much more lake-friendly. In setting an example for the watershed, we should not consider any lots smaller than 20,000 SF. Quiz question stated observable impacts begin at 1-acre lots.
• How specific should we be in making recommendations on road width, minimum lot size, etc? Key words are necessary, with no penalty for detail; do what you are comfortable with; a mission statement is probably not enough. Need some level of detail, plus an understanding of obvious linkages, like if you want limit development, then a lot size minimum can be used, which may bring with it a lesser road standard. Where do we go now? CC is OK with SBO as it is, but recognizes it can be improved with a few good ideas as recommendations. We could start writing down our choices, or take straw votes now.
• Is the present SBO 15% cover or 2000 SF too complicated? Why not just set 15%, which applies to all sizes of lots? It would be an obvious need to buy more lots to add impervious area for enough footprint to build on. Might force too many multi-story homes, impact views. Actually SBO is pretty simple the way it stands now. Also, if smaller lots do not help watershed protection, then its better to negate the substandard lots, since they also require a more intense road system. If only a lot coverage ratio is used, we need to consider how small you can go without making building impractical or impossible. The extra roads required of small lots dwarf the actual lot coverage impacts. Road area is proportional to lot size or density.
• The Codes & Ordinances Worksheet starts with roads; lets work on this now. All criteria listed on the board are also incorporated into this worksheet, which is designed to test municipalities for their improvement potential.
5. Recommendations SUMMARY – Ideas identified for follow-up action:
• (From Codes and Ordinances Worksheet – in order of priority for SBO)
a. Right-of-Way Width: Current COB codes say 60/50/40 foot ROW’s. Should we recommend ROWs less than 45 feet? [all AYES]
a. What is the minimum right-of-way (ROW) width for a residential street?
b. Does the code allow utilities to be placed under the paved section of the ROW?
b. Street Width: Majority of SB streets are 20 feet wide or less. Daily trips on Northshore Drive, with a gravel shoulder, exceed those on Barkley Blvd, with sidewalks both sides. The minimum subdivision code standard is 24 feet. The development standard is 20 feet. So does the group support seeking road width minimization in the watershed? [all AYES] And delaying for now, discussing public safety and all of those other elements? [all AYES, but one] When I go through this checklist, I just don’t see a lot of the topics shown on our top 10 list. Imperviousness, clearing loss, compaction, grading…all of this happens when you build a road. Part of that grading is the roads and right of ways that we were just talking about. Maybe the best way to use these 2 lists is to make a chart by plotting one list down the side and the other across the top, to make a matrix.
a. What is the minimum pavement width allowed for streets in low-density residential developments that have less than 500 average daily trips (ADT)?
b. At higher densities are parking lanes allowed to also serve as traffic lanes (i.e., queuing streets)?
c. Vegetated Open Channels: Jumping to vegetated open channels, because this related to streets. Right now we have a requirement for curb, gutter, and enclosed storm drain. We exclude pipe. And the down side of open channels is that most private property owners will gravel them or pipe them if they can, if we are not monitoring them. An example of this is in Tweed Twenty.
• If you save that or change that, aren’t we getting back to storm water management? Yes, and in a positive way. The way that you would combine the minimum street section and the minimum right of way and the open vegetated channel would be 20 feet of pavement and 4-foot gravel shoulders with an adjacent 2-foot swale, all within a 40-45 foot right of way. With no on-street parking. These are people who have the best intentions for creating the least amount of runoff and the least amount of pervious surfaces. So if they say no to curbs and gutters, that is probably the best thing that we can do. So, a 20 foot minimum street, 4-foot shoulder, 2-foot swale adjacent. You could actually walk on the swale if you had to, it’s just that you could fall into a sharp edge ditch.
This scenario ends up with a 32-foot cross-section and it gives you a little lateral room for the adjacent uplift on the outside. So what happens when the utilities come in? They lie outside of that, we’ll come back to that point. Does everyone agree on the preferred use of vegetated open channels? [all AYES]
• There are instances where you don’t want to do this. You’ll have to deal with cross slope and the steepness of the adjacent area, and the pedestrians. And, how many times are people going to actually park on that side anyway? If their car falls into the ditch, they are going to sue the city because the ditch was in the way. Or driving at night? There is a down side to this approach being followed in every case. Density underlies that decision; use it only on a lesser used road, a smaller residential access road. I don’t have anybody living on my road, but I still have traffic galore.
a. Are curb and gutters required for most residential street sections?
b. Are there established design criteria for swales that can provide stormwater quality treatment (i.e., dry swales, biofilters, or grass swales)?
d. (1) Parking Ratios: Jumping next to the parking element, which now for residential development, you are required to have two on-site parking spaces. That is really a required occupancy for vehicles. If this were reduced to one, you would probably still have some takers. I think this takes away too much, especially if you are narrowing down on street parking. We do allow tandem parking, which is one car behind another; this way you could have a single lane driveway. That is allowed in subdivision codes where it is specifically requested. We do not allow that in the land use code. So, one modification would be to allow tandem parking.
Anybody building on a 2000 sq. ft. footprint, will probably have a gravel driveway anyway.
• One question about parking is where it affects shopping centers and professional office buildings. One of the articles in the literature handed out talked about reducing public parking rather than the residential parking ratios, assuming that one is not able to accommodate 100% usage in the stores. That is true. Site designs are always for the day after thanksgiving retail sale.
What is the group’s feeling, is this OK? Allow tandem parking and still require two? Tandem would create less impervious surface than 2 side by side spaces. Even a semi-pervious driveway, does not have as much water penetration as infiltration into vegetated soil. [all AYES]
a. What is the minimum parking ratio for a professional office building (per 1000 ft2 of gross floor area)?
b. What is the minimum required parking ratio for shopping centers (per 1,000-ft2 gross floor area)
c. What is the minimum required parking ratio for single family homes (per home)?
d. Are the parking requirements set as maximum or median (rather than minimum) requirements?
d. (2) Parking Codes: (included in above discussion)
a. Is the use of shared parking arrangements promoted?
b. Are model shared parking agreements provided?
c. Are parking ratios reduced if shared parking arrangements are in place?
d. If mass transit is provided nearby, is the parking ratio reduced?
e. Open Space Design: Jumping next to open space elements. If we allowed cluster in some, but not all areas, would that result in less structural surface area? Is this where we talk about minimum lot size? Yes, when you talk about cluster, you have to talk about minimum lot size.
• I would suggest that for the purposes of this proposal, that we would establish a minimum lot size of 20,000 sq. ft.
• I would amend that to 13,333 SF.
Even a 20,000 cluster, or a 13,333 cluster, would be better than what we have now. There is some number, smaller than 20,000 that would be better than 20,000 as a minimum lot size. It depends on what the density of the cluster is as to what the impact of structural surfaces will be. So the question to the group is, do you support cluster development anywhere it can be created. [all AYES].
• What would be the impact if you set an overall density at 20,000 SF per unit with a cluster minimum lot size of 13,333 SF? And, would a cluster always be allowed? I am assuming by cluster, that it means that you are leaving larger areas open. [It does]
Basically, by doing that, you’re saying that there is the potential for “x” number of building permits in SB, overall.
Right, so you are only going to get “x” number of units. But, you can cluster your open space so you can get down to a lot as small as 13,333 SF. [That doesn’t quite go where I want it to] Another reason for requiring an average of 20,000 SF lots?
• Let’s go ahead and address the economic issues. But, before we address the numbers, let’s clarify we are addressing cluster vs. non-cluster. So, is there anyone who does not support clustering for any reason? (no objections) So, it seems like clustering is a doable pursuit, regardless of the density question.
• One parcel is not subject to the sewer regulations except for the seasonal limitations because it is zoned multi-residential and this applied at the time it was permitted. However, we can potentially achieve desired results, through using the SEPA environmental impact review. Cluster is not permitted in that zone. To create individual lots, on which you can have individual buildings, condominium ownership of land, and the like, that parcel still has the ability to create a low impact design. We don’t need fixes for Residential-Multi, because we have seen the last one of these in SB.
• On the size of the lots, if they are set at one half acre (20,000 SF) for a single family, this currently allows a 3000 SF footprint, per the SB Ordinance. The way it exists, to get a 2000 SF footprint, means you have to get to a13,333 SF lot size. It seems like that number has been arbitrarily picked, and it’s the number we are considering to use. Why? Because the overall objective is to reduce the impact on the watershed to acceptable levels. If you want to say to Whatcom County, “what is the minimum lot size that the city would set by example?”, it’s hard to justify less than 20,000 SF. OK, I am against this, but I’ll ask another question.
• Back to what is the percentage of the total watershed we are talking about here. What is the total? Are we talking about the last 2% of the whole area? We are talking about two different things. You are talking about the impact in the city, and he is talking about how this will be read by the county for application outside the city. We are dealing with the county? We are dealing with the most urbanized portion of the watershed, but we are concerned about the entire watershed. Two points apply, one is reducing the density for the sake of it, and the other is if your lot coverage of 15% is sound, then why not allow a 13333 sq.ft. lot, if it meets that objective. So, both are objectives. Reduced density also reduces impervious area. Even if you can’t reduce density, you can reduce impervious area. You attack on both fronts, weighing the priorities.
• You could take the 13,333 SF lot size, and model it after the county, but that would not necessarily be a good thing. That would require many more new roads, and a lot of the stuff we are talking about that is already a problem. There is a difference between zoning and setting the minimum lot size, of say 13,333 SF, which disallows anything under that size. You can make a different argument for property that is not yet platted, and roads that are not yet in existence, and say that in those instances, there ought to be different density limitations that ought to be “ x”, whatever that is. When you get to the question that the county has been struggling with on the TDR’s, we are in the different situation of being already designated as an urban area. If we are going to transfer development rights, we ought to base it on what could be if sewers were there. You might say fine, we will value the rights at the 13,333 sq. ft. level, so if you have an acre, you can build three lots, and if you want to transfer development rights, that means that you get to transfer a maximum of three. But, if you actually developed it, you could only build 2 homes, or none, or whatever. There is a whole range of possibilities between what you do on existing lots, as differentiated from un-platted, or sensitive areas. One of the limitations on the county right now is that sewer and water are not readily available. Thus, they have two tiered zoning. The main example is zoning which allows 3 per acre if services are provided, but only one per 5 acres if services are not available. All I’m saying is that there are no prospects of this group (or either council) that will move in the direction of intensifying or allowing more houses than the current zoning allows. All that we are discussing are minimums. You must have at least this much before you can build. That is consistent. So the question gets back to what do you want to see. Do you want to see 20,000 SF or do you want to see some other number? Or do you want to have a tiered system like the County? Maybe you’ll want to think about that for the next meeting. So arguments can be made for 13,333 SF, or 20,000 SF lot sizes, depending on what is meant, and both could be valid.
• Question, are you talking about the last 2% of the buildable lots? No, here is the way the numbers play out again. There are 500 left in the city, out of 1300 possible. There are 11,300 in the watershed as a whole, of which there are close to 6000 existing that are built. Thus, there is almost a two-fold increase possible in the whole watershed, including a 60% increase in the city. The 2% notion has to do with the area of the land within the city’s portion of the watershed, as compared to the watershed area as a whole. COB has 538 acres of uplands, out of a total of over 30,000 acres in the watershed. So 2% is the percentage of what we are going to end up when the city has built out its portion of the watershed. And who gets punished? Another way to put it is that the most intense land uses are allowed around the two smallest basins. These controls are preferentially targeted to the urbanized areas. Maybe you do have a different problem statement in the other, less urbanized areas. The problem with the 2%, is that even though it is 2% of the area of the watershed, it represents much more than 2% of the problem. That’s because of the intensity of use. To me the 2% question is one of those fuzzy ways of confusing things. This is reality. You can’t get away from reality.
• Summarizing this discussion is it accurate to say that we agree on clustering? [all AYES].
When it comes to the actual minimum lot size, should it be somewhere between 13,333 SF and 20,000 sq. ft.? Are we somewhere in this range? This really needs more discussion. OK, next time we should finish this checklist, and then talk about minimum lot size.
a. Are open space or cluster development designs allowed in the community?
b. Is land conservation or impervious cover reduction a major goal or objective of the open space design ordinance?
c. Are the submittal or review requirements for open space design greater than those for conventional
d. Is open space or cluster design a by-right form of development?
e. Are flexible site design criteria available for developers that utilize open space or cluster design options (e.g., setbacks, road widths, lot sizes)
[This list to be expanded at next meeting]
6. Assignments for next meeting:
• We have discussed a draft outline for a TIC/TDR system to be ready for discussion at our next meeting. Request staff to crunch the numbers showing impact of changing to a minimum lot size of 13,333 SF and 20,000 SF. Also need staff to draft a TIC strategy outline, using the concepts discussed to date, including the code list and recommendations that have emerged from it.
• Staff to provide a draft outline for a TIC system, which can be incorporated into SBO, using 6 elements in Flip Chart Summary.
• Staff to research item 2), plat consolidation, which may have a regulatory mechanism in use elsewhere.
• Another item to summarize is, what are the major impacts (see List of “Top 10” Ideas worthy of consideration, above) which require broader or different mechanisms than SBO to implement them, such as a menu of opportunities to be used in recommending revisions to various BMC codes. The most counter-productive code requirements (Most Counter-productive Watershed Practices, allowed or specified per Current COB Codes, above) are to be used for guidance.
• Staff is requested to continue to summarize ideas likely to have major positive impacts on protecting the watershed, but which require broader or different mechanisms to implement, such as a menu of opportunities to revise COB codes in SB and the like.
• Other recommendations and comments:
- I would like to get on to the actual writing and move forward with our recommendations.
- TV news announced the recent closure of Juanita Public Beach on Lake Washington in Seattle, due to fecal coliform contamination by geese.
• As noted from our prior meetings, three important elements were identified as lacking in the existing Silver Beach Ordinance.
-One of these was landscape standards. A handout describes a good book with examples of “why and hows” about alternate lawns.
-Second, a land acquisition program was identified as an essential element missing from the SBO. Last week, we introduced a proposed resolution to the City Council to establish such a program and fund it, which we will be discussing again next Monday. We are trying to get some progress on this because we have heard this group say this is necessary to help make the SBO more fair and flexible.
-Third, is education. This group has particularly stressed education as a most essential topic, and so this week we have suggested to the Lake Whatcom Reservoir Management Program, that this item be made a top priority in next year’s program. We recognize, in light of recent discussions with other CC members, that much education is needed to even begin to understand the complexities and the possibilities inherent in protecting the watershed. Also, this group may be outstripping others in the amount of training we are receiving by focusing on the SBO so intensely. Education will be required across the board, if we are to raise public awareness of the problems we face, as well as the potential solutions that are being studied. We are requesting that education be emphasized not only among the people directly involved these programs, but also to the community as a whole. Stay tuned on this. We are trying to make happen some of the things that this group has identified as important. Now we would welcome your support in getting this done in the best interests of the public.
7. NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, August 8, 7-9pm in Mayor’s Board Room
Future Meeting Date: Tuesday, August 15 (Mayor’s Board Room) (final recommendations deadline)