Marysville City Council has once again tabled approval of a proposed new zoning code.
“It has taken us almost a year and a half, at this point, two weeks isn’t going to hurt,” Council President and Mayor Henk Berbee said.
The code was in front of council this week for a second reading and a public hearing.
Nearly three years ago city staff and officials began the process of updating the zoning code to modernize it and bringing it into line with the comprehensive plan.
In November 2019, the planning commission unanimously approved the revised plan and recommended it to council. During the council approval process, residents came out to speak, mostly in opposition of the plan. Council held five readings in an effort to get public input and an ad hoc committee was created to review the plan and address concerns. Council eventually voted down the legislation, deciding instead to send it back to a committee for further revisions.
Last month, the newest iteration of the plan came to council. While there was no public comment, council member Donald Boerger, in person, and area realtor Meg Michel, in writing, expressed concerns.
Council members addressed three concerns with the code — fence heights, restaurants in the neighborhood commercial district and the possibility of allowing any use currently permitted under code to be at least a conditional use in the new code.
Boerger said he does not like the idea of allowing homeowners to construct eight-foot fences on their property.
“I am not O.K. with having an eight-foot fence in any neighborhood,” Boerger said.
He said that if six- and eight-foot fences are allowed, soon 10-, 12- and even 15-foot fences will be allowed.
The councilman said some neighbors would not want to look at a fence that size.
Additionally, he said the construction of a fence that size could vary greatly and caused concern. He said that if council does want to allow the fences, there needs to be some consideration given to the materials and style of the fence.
City Zoning Administrator Ron Todd said the fence would need to be inspected by the county before it would be approved.
City Planner Ashley Gaver said other communities allow the fences and local residents have increasingly started to ask for them.
Todd said residents appreciate the added privacy of an eight-foot fence.
City Manager Terry Emery said the higher fences are more expensive so the property owner usually has a reason for wanting it.
Boerger acknowledged that but asked council to “look at the cost to the community and the neighborhood,” when residents have the higher fence.
Council member Aaron Carpenter said he is “a big freedom guy” and believes if a resident wants the higher fence on their property, they should be able to build it.
Council Member Alan Seymour said he doesn’t like fences higher than three feet. He suggested allowing the eight-foot fences as a conditional use, requiring individual approval, rather than a permitted use.
Boerger said he could live with that compromise.
Council then looked at restaurants in the neighborhood commercial district. Gaver said the code allows for smaller “specialty food and beverage” shops, things like coffee and sandwich shops.
Todd said traffic impact needs to be considered for a larger scale restaurant.
Boerger said he would oppose restaurants in the district.
“We have to think about the gateways into our community and the traffic,” he said.
Council agreed “sit-down” restaurants could be included in the district, but not restaurants with a drive through.
Finally, council addressed Michel’s request that any business currently in a district be listed as a conditional use in the district it would be in.
“I would not recommend that,” Gaver said, noting the code is “a new vision for the city.”
“I think we are in a good spot and the direction we are moving is in line with our comprehensive plan,” Gaver said.
“We have been slowly progressing and our city is liking what we are doing,” Boerger said.
Council member Mark Reams asked if density requirements could be added to residential districts. He said the code sets requirements for multi-family residential developments, but not for single-family developments.
Gaver said that by having minimum lot sizes, it allows for more flexibility. She added that officials want to encourage a diversity of lot sizes. Gaver said she would look at other communities and discuss options with the consulting company hired to help with the zoning code.
Officials discussed options for amending the legislation and if they could do it after the public hearing without another hearing.
“I think there should be another public meeting on the amended legislation,” City Law Director Tim Aslaner said, noting he would, “not try rushing this through tonight.”
He said it could be “problematic” to waive the legislation’s third reading.
Council is expected to make the amendments at its Oct. 26 meeting, then hold the public hearing and second reading.
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