County council wrangles with code amendments
The Clark County Council’s Jan. 17 public hearing on biannual code amendments will include one item no one seems ready to discuss – minimum landscaping and recreation requirements for multifamily housing developments. Despite support from the council, the code amendment could not be removed from the Jan. 17 due to rules of procedure.
The council reviewed the proposed code amendments during a Jan. 4 work session. The proposed changes cover a wide range of topics ranging from establishing a fee schedule for impounding livestock to updating fees for fireworks stands, from updating the definition of cottage housing to creating separate definitions for public and private alleys.
This won’t be the first time the council has tried to tackle the tricky subject of landscaping and outdoor recreation space in multifamily developments. A code amendment was brought before the council in July after the Development and Engineering Advisory Board, DEAB, questioned how the standard was being applied by county staff.
A staff report found planning staff had been inconsistently applying the standard, sometimes requiring developers to set aside separate areas for landscaping and recreation but combining or overlapping the two at other times.
Although staff initially suggested the standards for recreation space and landscaping space be applied separately, the council approved an interim ordinance allowing the two to overlap. That interim ordinance expires Jan. 29 unless the council renews the interim ordinance or passes a new ordinance.
At issue for some councilors, as well as many residents who spoke out at earlier meetings, is the reduction in total green space that will occur when the two standards are combined or overlapped.
“There was never the intent for there to be a reduction in recreation space to meet this requirement,” Ted Vanegas, land use review manager for the county, said during the Jan. 4 council meeting.
Vanegas said the code has been clarified so that indoor recreation spaces such as a pool or play area would not count as landscaping space. He said only area that meet both the requirements for outdoor recreation and landscaping would be counted as both.
“It sounds like a circular discussion about whether we’re losing any land,” Councilor Sue Marshall said.
Marshall said she has listened to prior discussions by the county planning commission about the landscaping and recreation space requirements and believes it warrants further attention from the council.
“I don’t think there’s any way to look at this and see that it’s just a scrivener’s error, a clarification of language based on how people and the public have reacted,” Marshall said.
Because the council was meeting in a work session, no vote could be taken to remove the item from the proposed code amendments to be presented at the Jan. 17 public hearing. Chair Karen Bowerman suggested the council removed the item from the agenda at the start of the public hearing but that idea was shot down by attorney Leslie Lopez. Lopez said the rules of procedure require a different process.
Because notice for the public hearing had already been made public, Lopez said the proper way for the council to move forward was to include the entire code amendment package in the hearing. The lone item could be then be removed during deliberations following public comment.
For meeting information and an agenda for the Jan. 17 hearing, go to https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/clark-county-council-meetings.
— Shari Phiel