The City Council held a public hearing during its regular meeting on November 12th pertaining to the draft Town Center Code regulations and design guidelines that are currently under review. The Council received thoughtful comments from members of the public that raised some questions and issues that the City Attorney and Planning Director have attempted to address below.
1. Design Review Board duties. Will the new Design Review Board have any role in the review and adoption of a development agreement?
No. As proposed in draft Chapter 2.41 LFPMC, the Design Review Board (DRB) has no role in the development agreement process. Its role is to provide recommendations to the hearing examiner and the Director after review of design review applications and a public meeting it holds for Major applications. Draft Chapter 18.72 LFPMC includes roles for the City Council, Planning Commission, city staff and the public in the development agreement process.
2. City Council role. What is the City Council’s role in the Town Center zone development process?
As always, the City Council has the role of adopting the development regulations and design guidelines that will govern any development in the Town Center zone. These regulations will shape and govern all development in the Town Center zone. These regulations and guidelines must be complied with by the applicant, city staff, DRB, Hearing Examiner, and City Council. By tightening up the enforceability of the Town Center regulations, Council is playing its most important role in redevelopment of the Town Center.
State statute and draft Chapter 18.72 LFPMC also provide that the City Council is the final decision maker regarding the adoption of any development agreement (DA) for a Town Center zone development. Council may reject any DA terms proposed, Council may require negotiation focus on certain terms, and Council may hold a public hearing in addition to the public hearing held by the Planning Commission in draft Chapter 18.72 LFPMC. Council as final decision maker will decide how long each development agreement shall remain in place based on analysis of each project. City staff’s role is to put forward the initial draft of a DA to the Planning Commission. This initial draft will be considered at a public hearing held by the Planning Commission who will make a recommendation to the City Council.
The City Council is also considering a role for itself as the final decision maker in place of the hearing examiner for projects that include 100 or more dwelling units or 3 acres or more in area. Another option Council is considering is acting as an appellate body for decisions made by the hearing examiner for projects that include 100 or more dwelling units or 3 acres or more. In either of these roles, any appeal of the City Council’s decision would be to Superior Court.
3. Impact Fees. Will impact fees be imposed on new development in the Town Center zone?
Chapter 82.02 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) sets limits on what impact fees can be imposed on and used for. The statute allows impacts fees for four categories of public facilities (owned or operated by a public agency):
· Public streets and roads;
· Publicly-owned parks, open space, and recreation facilities;
· School facilities; and
· Fire protection facilities.
The basic legislative premise of impact fees is that new development pays a “proportionate share of the cost of new facilities needed to serve new growth and development” (RCW 82.02.050). Cities must balance impact fees with other sources of public funds and impact fees cannot be the only source paying for the new facilities. This means that in developing an impact fee schedule, jurisdictions must evaluate the kind of impacts that each type of use creates. Impact fee studies also must include analysis of the type of the new facilities that will be needed in the future and the cost of the new facilities. Each category of impact fee requires a unique type of study to establish that the fees are justifiable.
In built-out cities like Lake Forest Park, it is questionable whether new development triggers enough investment in new public facilities for impact fee systems to be viable. It should also be noted that Sound Transit is exempt from all impact fees for buildings and structures built by or on behalf of the transit agency. If the City Council determined that impact fees should be pursued for LFP, the study and legislative process necessary would need to be separate from the current amendments to the Town Center zone development regulations.
Apart from impact fees, the Town Center code updates being reviewed by the City Council strengthen the authority the City has to require studies and mitigation of impacts from any Town Center development. Applicants are required to submit a traffic study and internal circulation study prepared by a qualified professional. They can also be required to submit studies addressing other potential impacts including geotechnical (soils), parking, critical areas, trees, and stormwater design (including water quality analysis). The purpose of these studies is to identify improvements to public infrastructure (such as roads, sewer, storm drainage, and water systems) that are needed to mitigate the impacts of the proposed development. The City then requires that these improvements be design and construct by the developer according to City specifications.
4. Increased Traffic and Congestion. With the addition of a park & ride garage and possibly residential units in the Town Center, how will the increase in vehicles and pedestrians on site be handled?
As mentioned above, Sound Transit and applicants for redevelopment of the Town Center will be required to submit traffic and internal circulation studies prepared by qualified professionals with their development applications. City staff and consultants will use those studies to initiate the discussion of improvements to the entrance/exit points in the Town Center and to plan for circulation improvements so internal traffic can move more efficiently and pedestrians can navigate safely around the site. The applicant will be required to construct these improvements before any new parking structure or buildings can be occupied.
New buildings in the Town Center will have to provide parking for any residential units and commercial space that they contain. In order not to impact the rest of the uses in Town Center, new buildings will likely need one or more levels of internal parking.