MARCH 3, 1997
City Council alters city's density calculations
by Jeff Switzer, senior staff reporter
WOODINVILLE--Hoping to strike a balance between existing neighborhoods and future growth, the City Council voted 6-0-1 to approve new density calculations for the city which reduce the number of units allowed on most parcels by one-third.
The legislation comes partially in response to the council's approval of two developments north of downtown in the Wedge, where 32 homes are slated to be built on four acres in an existing neighborhood. The calculations subtract the area required for streets, stormwater facilities, and onsite recreation, which typically amount to one-third of the land area of a development, city staff said.
Cathy Betz, who opposed the densities of the Stonehill developments, urged the council last week to approve the new calculations to prevent what happened on the Wedge from happening elsewhere in the city. "The net density calculation proposal will help to preserve the integrity of existing neighborhoods and better balance infill development," she said. "The new R-6 is most likely what each of us thought we had in the first place. It just makes good common sense."
Richard Reed, another Wedge resident who opposed the Stonehill projects, urged the council to fight the Growth Management Act (GMA) and its mandates which "force Woodinville to become something its citizens don't want it to be," he said. "Let's not facilitate open warfare on vacant property."
According to city staff, the new calculations do not throw Woodinville off track for meeting GMA housing allocations. Reed also testified that some discussion at the Planning Commission level seemed to think the issue "a Wedge thing."
"This ordinance applies citywide," Councilmember Barbara Solberg later replied. "It's very unfortunate that the Wedge was the catalyst for all of this."
Councilmember Lucy DeYoung said the change is a good first step and that the zoning code follows soon. "I'm glad to see the recreation area is a deduction out of the total area," she said.
Councilmember Art Saulness lamented that he and the council hadn't noticed the net versus gross calculation when the council originally approved the calculations years ago.
Mayor Bob Miller said he was glad the new calculations could be adopted because he doesn't approve of moratoriums except for information gathering. "Having this gets us back to where we thought we were in the beginning," he echoed. "I think this is a good way to move forward."
Miller added that he has heard of a bill currently in the Legislature that would zone all urban areas R-9, or nine units per acre, and said he has turned a wary eye on Olympia.
Using a shoehorn to place homes
In January, a staff member likened a lot's minimum unit requirement of 75 and 85 percent usage of the zoning--such as eight homes per acre in R-10 zones--to using a shoehorn to make it fit. That provision is mandated by GMA and is designed to make efficient use of land and prevent urban sprawl. It does not exclude streets, stormwater facilities, or on-site recreation.
The council's amendment is designed to facilitate infill development in existing neighborhoods while trying to maintain the character of that neighborhood.
The Stonehill developments, while zoned R-6, were able to get bonus density credits for affordable units, boosting the density to nine units per acre in an existing neighborhood developed near two or three units per acre. Had the ordinance been adopted prior to the Stonehill project applications, the developers would have been able to build only about 25 units on the four acres there, including bonus credits, or R-6, the base density.