On Tuesday, May 24th, starting at 11:00 am, the Anacortes City Council will hold a special meeting to review the latest draft of the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. This once-a-decade update will provide the framework for how our neighborhoods, commercial districts, industrial areas, and public lands will develop in the coming years.
Beginning over 3 years ago, this Plan is the product of dozens of meetings, hundreds of public comments, and many hundreds of hours of staff and consultant work. It retains many of the good features of the previous Comp Plan, while adding and revising other sections to respond to changing conditions and better prepare for future growth.
You can review the "almost-final" version of the Plan (draft 3), plus public comments and other supporting documents at www.cityofanacortes.org/CompPlan20161stDraft.php. It includes sections on Land Use, Housing, Economic Development, Environment & Conservation, Parks, Recreation & Open Space, Transportation, Capital Facilities, and Utilities.
Anacortes's population is projected to increase by about 5,900 people over the next 20 years (requiring about 2,600 additional homes and/or multifamily units). Over 2,000 added jobs are expected over that time.
Where will we put these folks, now that all of the large residential acreage has already been developed? One option would be to re-zone some areas for high-density units. But that would significantly change the character of our town.
Instead, the new Plan proposes modest changes throughout the city, such as allowing slightly smaller lots, accessory dwelling units, cottage housing, and more apartments above commercial businesses. This approach can add a few units here and there without drastically changing existing neighborhoods, while maintaining a small-town feel.
To have room for future jobs, the Plan retains the industrial and manufacturing zoning for the large under-developed parcels in town (MJB) and along Highway 20 on March Point. An area south of the current Industrial zone between 34th St. and the highway is proposed for a live/work designation, to encourage small businesses.
This Plan proposes that future retail needs be provided for within the existing Commercial zone and Central Business District, rather than taking land away from industrial areas to accommodate a "big box" store.
The area between Cap Sante Marina and 22nd St. is designated for mixed-use development, possibly including a hotel, conference space, commercial and recreational uses, and residential units close to downtown.
Of course, City infrastructure and services will be needed to support this growth, and the Comp Plan addresses those needs.
It's important to note that a Comprehensive Plan is a statement of general goals, policies, and principles. Detailed rules and regulations in the Anacortes Municipal Code must be consistent with the Comp Plan. Portions of the existing Code will need to be revised to bring them into compliance with the Comp Plan.
For example, a new Live/Work Overlay is proposed in the Comp Plan, but the details of uses, setbacks, heights, parking, etc. have not yet been determined. Language for this and many other specific changes is being developed by staff, and will go through public review in the coming months, prior to adoption as part of the Code.
Adoption of the final 2016 Anacortes Comprehensive Plan is scheduled for July. It's been a long process, and not everyone's preferences could be included. But the City Councilmembers, Planning Commissioners, City staff, consultants, and Community Advisory Committee have done an outstanding job of blending citizen visions, concerns, and ideas into this Plan which will guide Anacortes into the future.
Thanks to all of you who helped along the way.
Cynthia Richardson is an architect and artist who served for 17 years on the Anacortes City Council and Planning Commission and is a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the Comprehensive Plan update. She writes an occasional guest commentary for AnacortesNow on issues of community interest.