Residents pack council chamber over zoning issue

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It was standing room only in Marysville council chambers and adjacent rooms and halls as dozens and dozens of concerned residents and business owners arrived to listen or be heard on proposed changes to the city’s zoning code. (Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)

Marysville City Council has tabled a public hearing on a proposed change to the city’s zoning.
More than a hundred citizens filled the council chamber at Monday night’s meeting to comment or hear comments about the zoning change. At the close of the public hearing, Mayor J.R. Rausch created an ad hoc committee to “discuss the ideas and topics that come up, the concerns.”
The committee includes residents, developers, attorneys, city officials, planning consultants and economic development officials, many of which were at the meeting to voice their opinion.
City officials said they wanted to update the zoning code to bring it into line with the comprehensive plan and to modernize it. Residents expressed a variety of concerns. One concern voiced often is that requirements in the historic district would be cost prohibitive for residents. The new code would not allow homes in the historic district to use certain types of material, including vinyl siding. Critics said too many changes would need to go through the city’s Design Review Board, which has a $250 application fee to get started. Residents said that maintaining the buildings with historic materials can be cost prohibitive.
“Just because a building is in the historic district doesn’t make it historic,” said resident Cathy Young. “We shouldn’t have to put a ton of money into them to fix them.”
City Planner Ashley Gaver said the zoning consultant is working to alleviate some of the material restrictions.
Council-member elect Donald Boerger said that while being old does not make a home historic, the city does have a historic district for a reason. He said he is “happy we are finally doing something” to protect the historic areas.
“My neighborhood is disappearing,” Boerger said.
He said the neighborhood is being “swallowed up” by retail and other uses.
“Either we protect what we like as a community or it is going to disappear,” Boerger said.
Resident Lesley Phillips said rules are “great” but warned that they often have “unintended consequences.” He said government officials can be “a little too uppity” to help residents. He said many of the rules would hurt the city’s most vulnerable residents who can least afford to make the improvements.
Matt Mason said does not want to live in an area with “HOA-style rules.”
Other commenters shared concerns that tighter zoning and lower density requirements mean developers are less likely to build affordable housing options.
In the early portion of the meeting, city staff members detailed the process for the new code, a process that has taken several years. They explained that multiple public meetings were held and that a variety of newspaper articles included the information.
Even so, residents said they were frustrated because they didn’t know about the zoning changes.
“Communication has been an issue,” realtor and resident Meg Michel said. “It was a surprise to the community. It was a surprise to the city that it was a surprise to the community.”
Rausch said there is “a lot of misinformation out there.”
He said many people choose to get their information only from social media. He said the posts “have a lot of misinformation and they create a firestorm.”
Emery said the city uses social media to publicize issues, but several people said they do not look for those posts.
Council member Nevin Taylor moved to table the public hearing until Dec. 16 when the committee can report on any progress it has made.
“You have put together a committee, you ought to give them the right to speak,” Taylor said.
Council agreed it could table the matter again if the committee is unable to meet or to agree to recommendations before the next council session.
As for the communication concerns, council member Deb Groat said she prefers conversations, either face to face or by telephone.
“Please come and talk to the people that care about you,” Groat said, noting that city staff is very helpful to residents with questions.
She encouraged residents of any ward to attend her informal sessions at 6:30 p.m., the first Tuesday of each month at the Marysville Library.



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