POULSBO — Proposed changes to the city’s zoning code would allow more flexibility for home businesses, but the City Council is still debating the role of other “neighborhood commercial” businesses.
The council held workshops on the proposed changes Sept. 26 and Oct. 10. The city last updated its zoning code in 2001.
Planning staff explained many of the changes, primarily in the Land Use Districts section. Overall, the document was reorganized for easier use.
“This is something that is very important to me,” Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said. “One reason I got into politics is because of development I thought was excessive.
“I’m not anti-development, I’m anti ‘what I think is inappropriate’ development.”
The new code gives more flexibility for buildings on lots that include critical areas, as well as updated design standards, such as required landscaping and pedestrian pathways.
“We have great neighborhoods now, but the new ones coming forward…This is the pathway to build great neighborhoods,” Erickson said.
The council began their deliberations in the residential district, and what drew the most discussion was a new section: neighborhood commercial. Erickson said she’d like to see some neighborhood stores, such as a grocery or “a place to get a soda or … sit down with a cup of coffee,” but the council wants to avoid strip-mall development in residential areas.
The neighborhood commercial use designation is intended to provide goods and services within walkable distances, according to the draft. Examples include a small grocery store, bakery, coffee shop, restaurant, daycare, and professional/medical/dental office space. Some members of the council, however, did not agree that professional/medical/dental offices belonged in residential neighborhoods.
At the Sept. 26 meeting, one resident testified that certain offices do apply to be in neighborhoods for the convenience of its clients. Troy Okunami is an orthodontist at the Poulsbo Doctor’s Clinic who is looking at developing his own practice at the corner of Hostmark and Caldart, near Poulsbo’s schools.
“It’s a great location,” he said. “Kids can walk, parents don’t have to take off work … and [some] of my patients live around the school, too.”
He said some folks in the neighborhood are concerned about an office moving in, possibly worried it could lower property values, which he doesn’t think would happen.
Okunami understood the council’s concern of the “possibility of allowing certain other business that could takeover the neighborhood,” he said.
However, “of all businesses, if [the city] puts one next to a school, an orthodontist office makes the most sense,” he said, pointing out that another orthodontist practice, Link Orthodontics, is already in the neighborhood — across from North Kitsap High School on Caldart Avenue.
The council also discussed the different options to fulfill their goal of providing more affordable housing and low-impact development. One example is Accessory Dwelling Units, a smaller, detached unit on the property of an existing home. Property owners must live on the property if they build an accessory dwelling unit, and can either utilize it as a home office or may rent the unit out — some councilors said they were concerned about renters.
The change in the new draft makes it easier for property owners to apply for an ADU permit, by only requiring a neighborhood meeting instead of in front of the Hearing Examiner.
Chickens were also on Wednesday’s agenda. Currently, neither livestock nor poultry are not allowed on properties smaller than one acre, with strict exceptions. Noting the growing trend of urban farming and looking at neighboring jurisdictions, staff recommended allowing chickens on properties of 7,500 square feet or more, but the council did not make a decision on how many chickens would be allowed. The current rules pertaining to livestock would remain the same.
Erickson also asked for a provision for properties that are designated as farms under the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office be exempt from this section of the city’s code — she and a neighbor’s property are the only farms designated within the city limits.
Public testimony is allowed during these workshops. Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist said she’d like to see more business input on the document.
“There’s nothing like consulting with the people who would actually use the code,” she said.
To view the proposed draft, go to www.cityofpoulsbo.com/planning/planning_codeam_2010.htm under City Council Review.