Property Owners vs. North Bend City Council on Zoning for Hotels and Storage Facilities

The North Bend City Council addressed several topics at their bi-monthly meeting on September 1st, 2020. However, the meeting’s main highlight revolved around a dispute between several Council Members and various property owners whose land resides in the Urban Separator Overlay District (USOD) of North Bend. The debate centered around some city council members’ attempt to amend the previously city-approved list of commercial usages for the USOD. 

For those unfamiliar, the USOD is a new commercial zone in a relatively rural and undeveloped area in North Bend. The city has placed and approved a strict list of uses for the land within this zone. According to the City of North Bend, “[The USOD] currently allows a variety of commercial, industrial, resource, utility, public and quasi-public uses. The USOD also allows bed and breakfasts, convenience stores, restaurants, storage and hotels.” 

Previous development did not occur, for the most part, due to the lack of a sewer in the zone. However, that should not be an issue for expected future development; “A sewer, Utility Local Improvement District (ULID), is moving forward in the Meadowbrook area of town where the USOD exists,” says the city.

North Bend Zoning map

The improvement of a sewer system in the area seems to come as a double-edged sword for land and business owners in the zone. The city claims that by extending the sewer through the undeveloped site, the pressure to urbanize the USOD will amplify. Says the city; “There is concern that allowing specific uses in the USOD area could result in a development density inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and Municipal Code.” They argue that more restrictions need to be placed on what can operate in this zone, to ensure this does not occur, potentially harming the landowners within the area.

At September 1st’s meeting, an amendment was proposed – hoping to remove hotels and outdoor & indoor storage facilities from the approved list of usages. The city council members who are pushing this reasoning say, in their summary statement, that hotels and storage facilities are “incompatible with surrounding allowed uses and with the surrounding open space.”

Councilmember Chris Garcia made the point that storage facilities are unattractive, even more so considering the land is near the entryway to North Bend on 202 and that storage facilities bring minimal jobs to the community. 

How would the public feel about development in such an undeveloped place, councilmember Rosen asked? The issue of hotels and storage facilities turning 202 into a highway being another concern.

This meeting followed several others where some clearly voiced their opposition to the proposal. A planning commission (PC) meeting on August 13th was full of anguished public comments.

“As a property owner, I oppose the zoning restrictions under consideration by the City. The proposed changes are a further infringement on my property rights. It is my opinion that the proposed changes have the potential to destroy any reasonable economic use of my property,” said William Carroll.

Victoria Tennant Bettes, whose family has resided in North Bend since 1883, says that “The City of North Bend has developed homesites. The next step is to create employment opportunities. Employment requires businesses to have the land on which to locate their business. I would like to have the Planning Commission consider the damaging effect of any changes to the Permitted and Conditional Use listings in property locations that are under consideration for the proposed Meadowbrook Sewer and Water ULID.”

The outcry from the public led the planning commission advising 4 to 1 to not approve the proposed amendment at the August 14th meeting. James Boevers, a planning commission member, said, “The public response was overwhelmingly against these proposed changes. While the benefits were noted by Staff and discussed by the Commission, I believe the benefit does not outweigh the negative impact on the property owners. Zoning and code changes have a real impact on property value and the ability to develop the significant financial investment these property owners have made. Those property owners have made their voice heard, and Council should evaluate that response and reconsider making this change.”

After the planning commission’s firm disapproval of the amendment, the Community and Economic Development Committee (CED) heard the citizens’ complaints and followed the planning commission’s suit on advising against the approval of the amendment. Overall, two separate bodies disapproved of the removal of hotels and storage facilities from this zone after the compelling testimony from landowners before September 1st’s council meeting to decide the amendment’s fate. 

On September 1st, citizen comments played a role again. Wende Miller, talked about the financial and business drawbacks as well as questioned why the city council wanted to exclude hotels when there are already many design restrictions for hotels to ensure their development fits with the aesthetic deemed appropriate by the city. Miller brought up the point that the town is devaluing properties by restricting them, claiming that because of the current lack of sewer, their property is already devalued. Miller said that property owners “can’t build and can’t sell” as the proposed amendment would continue to destroy the property’s value.

The September 1st meeting resulted in the City Council deciding to remove the clause in the amendment about restricting hotels in the USOD, leaving them as an allowed development. The council changed storage facilities from a permitted use status to a conditional use with a required permit status. Overall, there were compromises from both the property owners and the city council, hopefully satisfying both sides.

Rough area in dispute

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