On Thursday, September 23rd, the North Bend Planning Commission met to consider whether or not a proposed amendment to the Hotel and Motel Performance Standards in the North Bend Municipal Code (18.10.050) should be recommended to the City Council.
Mike McCarty, Senior Planner for the Community and Economic Development Department, opened the discussion explaining that the amendments were being considered to accommodate potential hotels above the current height limits in two areas of North Bend.
Those locations exit 31 & 34, are currently zoned Interchange Commercial (IC) in the North Bend Municipal Code and “Provide land for different intensities and types of residential, retail, service, business, office, and entertainment uses that complement, enhance, and support residential and other land uses within North Bend.”
To illustrate what these changes may look like if approved, the conceptual images provided by a developer of a possible Wyndham hotel at the outlet mall location were used as an example of what a change from a 35-foot standard (approximately 3 stories) to two hotels in the two locations of up to 65 feet with 10 extra feet for architectural details. *Note 55-foot structures are already allowed in the Interchange Mixed Use (IMU) areas. (pictured in teal areas in image one)
Senior Planner McCarty noted that the proposed changes would accommodate middle-of-the-market hotels, which North Bend currently lacks. The city has several budget options, and the Salish Lodge & Spa is available to fit a higher-end market. Still, a middle-of-the-road option would help businesses related to tourism, passersby and residents out of town guests.
According to McCarty, these city areas are already related to tourism and businesses, are not located in residential areas and would not be visible from any homes. Therefore, city staff supports the proposed amendments to the municipal code.
During the public comment period, the amendment had many supporters among the business community. Beth Burrows, owner of the North Bend Theatre, Lucas Haines speaking for the North Bend Downtown Foundation and as one of the owners of Volition Brewing, Luke Talbott owner of Compass Outdoor Adventures, Real Estate agent Karin Simpson and Cherie Cooper, a property owner all expressed support for the code changes.
Chelsea Stevens, one of the owners of the proposed Wyndham project, also supported the amendment explaining that they must comply with city standards and believes city staff has been careful in making those changes. She noted that not only will the new hotel not block the view of Mt. Si, but it will provide a new view from the rooftop bar. Architect Michael Desmarteau agreed, saying drastic changes were made to the proposed hotel design to fit the North Bend aesthetic.
Commissioner Towe expressed concern that even though the proposed changes were not intended to be about a specific hotel, the testimony seemed to be about a specific project. Community & Economic Development Director Rebecca Deming noted that showing the prospective hotel’s conceptual images was important to show what the new height limits would look like.
The lone dissenting commenter, North Bend resident Kevin Brewster, expressed concern for the site lines in town, not only of Mt. Si but also Rattlesnake Ridge and Mount Washington. He stated he thinks it’s important to keep tall buildings under control to preserve views all over town and that hotels should make do with the height limits as they stand. The city reports one comment in favor and five against via email within the public commenting time frame.
The public hearing portion of the meeting was closed by Commissioner Torguson at 7:43 pm, and the meeting was opened for the Commissioners to discuss their thoughts. Most expressed support for the changes, with a few requests for small changes to the language contained in the code to eliminate the appearance of specifically changing the code to accommodate a particular hotel chain.
Commissioner Towe spoke up again, expressing concerns about the limitations within the amendment allowing for only two hotels and wanting assurance that the trees along Bendigo Blvd. be protected. Senior Planner McCarty explained the trees belong to the city, not the property owner, are considered the gateway to the city and the design standard is to keep them.
After more discussion regarding the adequacy of infrastructure capacity (water, sewer) for such projects, it was decided to continue the discussion until the next meeting on October 14th when the changes to language may be finalized.