The City Council has approved permanent new zoning restrictions in the Old Town area of Anacortes. The permanent ordinance, approved Monday evening, will replace interim controls approved last December.
The orinance will now be submitted to a number of state agencies for a 60 day review period.
The so-called Old Town overlay ordinance was unanimously approved the Council after a bit of a debate over two issues.
Council member Nick Petrish said he thought the ordinance included a little more land, land that’s currently zoned R-4 and lies along the southeast corner of the area covered by the interim ordinance.
Mayor Dean Maxwell said that the Council couldn’t legally expand the area because it would constitute a change in zoning without notice.
Council member Cynthia Richardson raised a separate issue. She suggested this new ordinance conflicts with other laws regarding homes placed on the local historic register. Richardson said current law requires the owner of a home on the register to request a review by the Historic Preservation Board when they plan substantial changes. But, the new overlay ordinance says simply that the owner ‘may’ request a review.
The Council voted to change the word ‘may’ to ‘shall,’ thus requiring a review so the new law matches current law.
The new controls include, among other things, a height limit of 25 feet unless strict guidelines are met. New construction could be allowed up to 35 feet if the requirements are met. The city-wide height limit is currently 35 feet.
Following the meeting, Council member Erica Pickett told a reporter "This is a great beginning; mostly the neighborhood crafted it themselves."
The new Old Town controls were initiated over a year ago by homeowners in the Old Town area who were becoming increasingly concerned by the construction of larger homes. Homes which many said were out of scale with the current homes.
The City Planning Department drafted interim controls, which were imposed at the end of last year to allow the city time to take a more relaxed look at what should be done to preserve the look and feel of the area. The ordinance passed Monday evening represents the work of many of the residents of the area, combined with work by then-Planning Director Ian Munce and city consultant and architect Mark Hinshaw of Seattle.