Last week, the North Bend City Council convened for a Work-Study Session to begin the process of updating the City’s Economic Development strategy. This initial planning work by the Council is critical in developing long-term fiscal stability for the city, as well as a balanced community.
Under new leadership, the City’s Community and Economic Development Department is focused on meeting Council policy direction by essentially creating a master plan for future commercial activity, with the goal to create more local, family-wage jobs and produce goods and services to better meet residents’ needs.
This City Council Work Study Session was just the first of many meetings to guide the City’s Economic Development Plan that will become the roadmap for future commercial development in North Bend.
During the session, Council and Staff discussed the importance of balance so that all pieces of the plan fit together to create a healthy, livable community. While an Economic Development Plan will guide commercial activity, Council and Staff recognized other components should continually be addressed, including infrastructure to support new companies interested in calling North Bend home and housing diversity so those working in the City can also afford to live here.
The City sees the commercial Employment Park (EP) zoning areas east and west of downtown as the primary future commercial zones. This includes a new Utility Local Improvement District (ULID) in the works for the Meadowbrook area west of downtown, which will bring long-awaited sewer service. If approved, this ULID #7 will be timed with the City’s Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades, which will bring the plant up to modern standards and provide required treatment capacity by around 2023.
The City also continues to work on multiple water mitigation strategies, to meet water system constraints related to mitigation requirements, and a robust transportation improvement plan to serve the community.
With infrastructure needs addressed, the next component for a balanced community is ensuring diverse housing options. Currently the City’s predominate residential zones are Low Density (LDR), High Density (HDR) and a “Cottage” zone. In response to diverse needs, City staff has been working on drafting an additional residential zone beyond dense apartments and expensive single-family homes.
At the work study, staff presented councilmembers with the new medium density residential zoning concept. A new “missing middle” zone would allow for duplexes, triplexes and courtyard apartments occupying the same footprint of a traditional single-family home. The potential zone is proposed for only a few areas of the city situated closer to commercial hubs.
The middle zone could provide smaller and more affordable housing options for today’s workforce than currently exists in North Bend. Councilmembers expressed a desire to plan for future housing options that could create more affordability, but also wanted to carefully consider any unintended consequences.
After over two hours of conversation, Councilmembers decided to continue these discussions at a future work study.
Creating this important Economic Development Plan is expected to take many months – requiring more City Council work sessions, Council Committee meetings and Public Hearings – before a final draft is considered for adoption by Council.