Development moratorium is debated in Washougal

Public hearing will be held Monday

The Washougal City Council could soon decide whether to place a development moratorium on some of the land that was recently annexed into the city.

The decision to annex 186.14 acres — east of Woodburn Elementary School and Crown Road and south of Southeast 23rd Street — occurred Nov. 16, 2015. When the annexation goes into effect Friday, there will be a six-month moratorium for properties zoned “employment center.”

Washougal has entered into a $225,000 professional service agreement with BergerABAM, to perform a land use study for the city’s urban growth areas and develop regulations for the employment center zoning designations.

“They are looking at our employment numbers citywide, to include all of the employment generating lands in the city, to see where we are in that regard and if and how much additional employment land we need overall, including the urban growth areas,” said City Administrator David Scott. “Depending upon those findings, we will look at what that means for the urban growth areas and existing areas of the city.”

Community Development Director Mitch Kneipp said the council’s community development committee expressed concerns during its meeting in December about the land use study not being completed and the annexation going into effect.

“They said development should not occur until visioning is done, and they can put the standards and vision together,” Kneipp said.

The committee — consisting of Paul Greenlee, Brent Boger and Michelle Wagner — did not want the newly annexed area to face some of the same issues they said have negatively impacted Woodburn Hill.

“The [Woodburn Hill subarea plan adopted Oct. 6, 1997,] allowed streets that are narrower than anywhere else in the city,” Greenlee said during the Jan. 11 City Council workshop. “It allowed apartments to be built with one-and-a-half parking spaces per unit. That’s not nearly enough. It was the developers who wanted these things. It was the property owners who were trying to get these concessions to put more units in there and make more money.

“These are issues that the city got wrong,” he added. “It’s important that we get this right. Postponing this by six or nine months strikes me as something we have the responsibility to do. I just don’t want to go off half-cocked and make the same mistakes or different ones.”

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said he is not in favor of a moratorium for land that could be developed for residential uses.

“It’s a property ownership issue,” he said. “It’s a land-use issue. We’ve got standards.

“If we haven’t gotten our act together and gotten all the information from all over the city before and we suddenly realize, ‘gee, that would be beneficial,’ I don’t see why we should stick the property owners with a bill for that,” Shoemaker added.

The Marlin Development Co. is proposing to build a 14.2 acre subdivision, with 44 homes on 8,000-square-foot lots, located in the annexed area immediately south of McKeever Road and just east of Crown Road.

Brett Simpson, representing Marlin at the council workshop, said he opposes the six-month moratorium on residential development.

“We’ve waited two years for the annexation already,” he said. “Setting a moratorium on land is a really bad precedent to anyone else who wants to come in and develop land.

“People aren’t going to come with money and invest in Washougal, because it’s too unpredictable,” Simpson added.

A public hearing regarding the proposed development moratorium will be held Monday, during the City Council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.