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City Council decides which businesses to allow in downtown

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, Contributing Writer

Last week’s City Council meeting brought an end to the council’s deliberation over what types of businesses should be allowed in the center of Woodinville. After several hours of discussion, the council approved Ordinance 560, which specifies which businesses are allowed in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) and General Business (GB) zones.

The CBD is the area in and around, roughly, NE 177th Place, 140th Avenue NE, NE 171st Street and 131st Avenue NE. The GB occupies, approximately, the space between SR 522 and NE 177th Place.

The council decided on rules for several types of businesses: shooting ranges, motor vehicle and boat dealers, truck and motorhome dealers, secondhand and used merchandise shops and gas stations. Other changes were discussed at past meetings.

The council modified the design standards that gas stations in the GB and CBD must adhere to. Instead of requiring a 60-inch high screen or trellis to block the gas pumps from the street, the council decided only to require that the screen be 30 inches tall, since a taller screen could hide crimes from view.

"I think the whole goal is to keep people safe, and if you even go as high as 36 inches, it’s too easy for someone to bend over and crawl beneath that and make mischief," Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders said.

The council also revised the recommendations for the design of the canopy over the gas pumps. The ordinance was changed to read that gas station canopies "are encouraged to use heavy timber framing" rather than "are encouraged to use heavy timber construction." This means canopies don’t have to be constructed completely of wood; they can also use metal and other materials.

The ordinance prohibits gas stations in Woodinville’s Pedestrian Core Design District or Civic/Gateway Design District, but Councilmember Les Rubstello suggested allowing gas stations in those areas and prohibiting them  on the east side of downtown. He said gas stations seem more appropriate for the Pedestrian Core and Civic/Gateway districts because they’re near the freeway and traffic.

"As tourists come in and out of our city off 202, it makes sense that they’re right there," Councilmember Paulette Bauman said. "In addition, if we open that Northwest Gateway to, potentially, reuse or redevelopment for some hotels, tourists are going to need to see those things [and] get in and out of the city."

The council kept the restriction on gas stations in Ordinance 560, but sent the issue back to planning commission to study more in the future.

The council also decided that motor vehicle and boat dealers can have outdoor sales lots in the GB, including elevated display ramps, as long as they follow development conditions to make the site more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

Truck and motorhome dealerships are only allowed indoors.

Mayor Bernie Talmas favored allowing dealerships in the industrial zone and in parts of the GB, but in enclosed buildings.

"We’re trying to develop and create a downtown that’s walkable and pedestrian-friendly," he said. "And we heard from our expert months ago that if you want to attract people and have them stay and walk down a street and shop, you have to have different uses on the street."

Other council members didn’t want to create restrictions that would make it hard for dealerships to do business, especially since that business can benefit the city.

"We would like their retail dollars and their sales tax dollars to stay in the city to make other improvements  — parks, property acquisitions ... there’s lots of things that we can do with the retail sales tax," Bauman pointed out.

For shooting ranges, which must be located in an enclosed building, the council specified that even short noises must comply with the noise limitations.

The council discussed the limitation requiring secondhand/used merchandise shops be 10,000 square feet or less which would affect the Value Village that recently opened. It is about 29,000 square feet.

The council approved the ordinance as written, even though that means Value Village will now be a nonconforming use. It can continue operating, but cannot expand.

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