Neighborhoodto stay single family, proponents say

Published on Thu, Apr 27, 2006 by eg Olson

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Neighborhood to stay single family, proponents say

By Meg Olson

Central Blaine residents packed city hall to tell council members they want laws changed to keep multi-family housing projects out of their neighborhoods.

“Have the courage to vote for what your neighbors want,” said two-time former city council member and former mayor Tom Burton, who said his support for proposed zoning changes had drawn him to council chambers for the first time in over a decade.

“They want single-family zoning in a single family neighborhood,” Burton said.

More than 50 residents attended the April 24 city council public hearing on the first phase of an update to the city’s comprehensive plan. Twenty of them spoke in support of code changes to allow only single-family detached homes in areas where that has been the traditional housing type. Ten letters supporting the changes were submitted, and three speakers opposed the proposal, one of whom also submitted a letter.

The Blaine planning commission is unanimously recommending council approve development regulations that would change the zoning in the Salishan and a portion of the Brickyard neighborhoods from medium-density residential to single-family only (SF-1). In the lettered streets area, currently zoned medium-density residential, a new SF-2 zoning would be created to allow detached single-family residences as well as duplexes and attached single-family homes on the condition they be designed in a way that “the attached units appear as if they are a single unit or two distinct units.”

Blaine community development director Terry Galvin said allowing attached units would increase the range of housing options available to the community. “It could give the opportunity to own your home, fee-simple, at a lower cost,” he said.

While the SF-2 area would not be subject to design guidelines because “there was not a strong desire from the community,” Galvin said, that desire was present in the areas he is recommending for SF-1. The proposed comprehensive plan changes include design standards for the SF-1 areas that will “allow infill development sensitive to the neighborhood and allow neighborhood integrity to be maintained,” Galvin said. Homes would be required to have entries facing the street and garages accessible from the alley where available. Overall, the character of new homes would need to mimic the existing historical homes in those areas, he said.

Several speakers asked to see even greater areas zoned for single-family homes only. Thirty Brickyard residents signed a petition asking for SF-1 zoning in the area from Adelia Street south to Clyde Street and from Mitchell Avenue to the freeway, rather than only the corner of the Brickyard neighborhood abutting the south corner of Salishan. “Staff is proposing single-family zoning for only a fourth of the Brickyard neighborhood,” said Ann Olason, one of the organizers of the petition.

Representatives from the lettered streets area wanted the same SF-1 designation as their neighbors south of the freeway. “I live in one of the historic homes that remain in that area and I’d like to see that character preserved,” said Deborah Anderson.

The few who voiced opposition to the changes said they wanted to continue to have options to use their land. “I am someone that in the future might want to develop,” said Holly Kirkwood. She and Sandy Burke said higher buildings proposed in the adjacent residential zone along Peace Portal Drive would block their views if they couldn’t build up as well. Kirkwood proposed moving the boundary of the SF-1 zone to the middle of Madison and putting their two properties in the residential zone. “There are portions that need to be looked at and that block doesn’t make sense,” she said.

While most of the public testimony was about changes to residential zoning, Dennis Olason also praised new language to improve the city’s efforts at code enforcement. “Any chance it could be made retroactive?” he joked.

Olason, one of the original proponents of a single-family designation for downtown residential areas said in the second phase of the comprehensive plan update council needed to address issues of affordable housing. “Any development must include some element of low-cost housing,” he said. “Don’t limit it to one zone.”

ason Burke, who spoke against the zoning changes, also was concerned about affordable housing and said the changes could ghettoize Blaine by pushing renters in multi-family complexes out of the city core. “You’re jamming them in the lowlands down by the freeway,” he said

Galvin said the city had ample room for future multi-family projects in several areas and he added the second phase of the plan review would look at the entire Blaine UGA and include “additional substantial amendments.”

Council members agreed to convene for a work session May 1 in hopes of having an action item on their May 8 agenda.

The April 24 Blaine City Council meeting was far from the beginning of the discussion on downtown Blaine’s residential zoning. Since the 2004 approval of the Adelia Commons project residents of the Brickyard and Salishan neighborhoods have been asking for changes to city code to limit future development to single-family homes.

Staff agreed changes were appropriate to downtown residential zoning and council approved a moratorium on multi-family projects in the Salishan, Brickyard and lettered streets neighborhoods in August 2004.

It has been extended three times while staff worked on the update to the city’s comprehensive plan. At their recent meeting council members voted to extend it again, until July 29, despite vows it was for the last time when they extended it in January.

“I didn’t vote against it but morally last time we said we weren’t going to do it again and we’re doing it again,” said John Liebert.

The council agreed that the moratorium should be lifted as soon as the plan amendments were approved.