Building Residential Capacity
Code Draft Now Available: Click Here
Consultant Makers Architecture will present the Draft to The City's Planning Commission on September 22nd, 2021 at 6:00 pm. Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at their regularly scheduled October 13th, 2021 meeting.
- Project Overview
- Initial Findings
- About Form-Based Code, Infill Exemptions, and Short Plats
- Project Documents and Resources
- Get Involved!
Why We’re Updating the Code
Port Angeles is growing. By 2036, the population is expected to increase by up to 5,000 residents. In the short-term, however, local construction activity has slowed due to a variety of factors. The current zoning code has limited flexibility for builders and has been identified by some as a barrier to new housing and commercial space for new businesses as Port Angeles evolves.
The City was recently awarded a Washington State Department of Commerce grant to support code changes that increase residential building capacity and address the design of new commercial and residential development. The three specific actions in this project are:
- Adopt a form-based code for the City’s five commercial zones that currently permit multi-family housing (these are the CO, CN, CSD, CA, and CBD zones).
- Increase the maximum number of lots available for “short plat” subdivisions (Port Angeles currently allows up to four lots, and nine lots are allowed under state law).
- Adopt an exemption for environmental review for certain residential or mixed-use infill development (under RCW 43.21C.229). This will involve establishing strategic design provisions that help mitigate impacts of more intensive infill development types (e.g. duplexes, townhouses, mixed-use buildings).
The City has hired MAKERS architecture and urban design to consult and assist on all three actions.
The City of Port Angeles’ objectives for this project are the following:
- Adopt a form-based code that emphasis the quality and design of new development while balancing economic feasibility.
- Encourage and enable the development on more housing of all types and affordability levels throughout the city.
- Promote and revitalize Downtown by increasing residential units and facilitating economic development.
- Involve the public and local officials at all stages of the project to ensure the code reflects community priorities and values.
- Implement the goals and policies of the Port Angeles Comprehensive Plan.
The City is leveraging State grant funding ($50,000) to accomplish this work.
The project started in fall 2020 and will be completed by fall 2021. Specific steps are shown below.
Project Startup & Initial Presentation
Dec 2020 – April 2021
Preliminary Concepts & Recommendations
April - May 2021
Form-Based Code Public Workshop
June 9 2021 @ 6-8:00 PM
First Draft Code Updates
September 17, 2021
Planning Commission Review & Code/Ordinance Refinements
September - November
City Council Adoption Support
Scoping for Development Regulations Update
October - December
Early work on the project involved an in-depth audit of the Port Angeles zoning code and related Comprehensive Plan policies, and a series of interviews with local stakeholders such as business owners, property owners, public officials, and local non-profit groups. Some initial findings that will help guide the project are listed below.
Top findings from the Comprehensive Plan and zoning code audit
- Comprehensive Plan policies call for mitigating the impacts of commercial development, orienting development toward pedestrians, and diversifying the price points of housing. This can be implemented by zoning changes and updated standards for landscaping, privacy, service/utility design, streetscape, parking design, etc.
- The lack of current design standards was notable – for missing middle housing types (duplexes, townhouses, etc.), multifamily, and commercial development.
- The narrow range of permitted building heights in the Central Business District (CBD) is a challenge, with a two-story minimum, 45-feet maximum, and special-use permit option to exceed the maximum.
- There is room for improvement with the off-street parking regulations; Strategic parking standards updates can be made to promote desired development and reduce impervious surface while balancing transportation impacts.
- The zoning code is not easy to use. It could be improved by using lists and tables instead of long paragraphs, use more clear language and better organization, and add graphics to help illustrate the code and set expectations.
- Subdivision standards and site plan review processes can be streamlined and enhanced.
Top findings from the Port Angeles stakeholder interviews
- The code needs to be more consistent and have less surprises. At the same time, avoid being excessively detailed with design standards and consider the ramifications of zoning on related issues like public works and utilities.
- Housing affordability is an increasing challenge. This is partly driven by slow housing construction, lack of affordable housing choices, and regulatory challenges. Several stakeholders identified high costs associated with stormwater management rules, the state energy code, and other regulations not related to the zoning code.
- Single-family housing is highly sought after but expensive to build and maintain. There is strong interest in accessory dwelling units (ADUs) but they are challenging to meet code requirements. Duplexes seem to be popular and are being built. There is also a significant need for multifamily housing (apartments or condominiums) to meet workforce housing demand.
- Downtown merits the most attention from a design standpoint, although it is not likely to see many new buildings in the coming years. The Highway 101 corridors on the south and east side of town have many opportunities for investment and should be designed to be more attractive and functional.
- Stakeholders provided specific code challenges and suggestions relating to administration, organization, restrictive lot dimension standards, updates to permitted land uses, and flexibility for parking requirements. In residential zones, several stakeholders suggested reducing minimum lot width to 25 feet and reducing minimum lot size to 3,500 feet to support small infill housing projects.
Form-based codes (FBC) address the relationship between buildings and the public realm. The public realm is those areas that belong to everyone and are accessible to all –they are the spaces between buildings and the street, parks, trails, green spaces, and other outdoor gathering places. FBC regulates areas that are not typically part of zoning, such as the design of streets, sidewalks, landscape, and other public spaces. FBC recognizes that all of these pieces are all interrelated. FBC pulls the regulations together in one place where their relationships are presented in both diagrams and words to clearly illustrate the design and development objectives for a given area.
While initially started in Florida in the early 1980’s, numerous Washington communities have crafted their own “hybrid” versions of FBC that still regulate permitted uses, but place a greater emphasis on the massing, design and orientation of buildings to the existing or planned streets within a specific district, area, or entire city.
FBC is drafted as regulations to implement a community’s plan for a designated area such as Port Angeles’ commercial zones. They try to achieve a community vision based on time-tested forms of urbanism.
Examples from cities and towns across the country are available from the Form-Based Code Institute. Washington state examples are listed below.
- Lacey, WA – Woodland District Standards
- Bothell, WA – Downtown Subarea Plan & Regulations
- Mountlake Terrace, WA – Town Center Design Standards
- Anacortes, WA – Citywide Project Design Standards
- Clark County, WA – Highway 99 Subarea Standards
- Spokane, WA – Hamilton Corridor Form-Based Code
Examples from the Clark County Highway 99 form-based code are shown below.
The Washington State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires cities and counties to consider environmental impacts associated with governmental decisions, including issuing permits for private development projects, constructing public facilities, or adopting regulations, policies, and plans.
An environmental impact statement (EIS) is an informational document that provides the City, public, and other agencies with environmental information to be considered in the decision-making process. It also allows the public and government agencies to comment on proposals and alternatives. Alternatives for the form-based code could include code amendments for different land use patterns, housing types, street connections and streetscapes, and design requirements.
While SEPA has good intentions, environmental review can sometimes cause delays or uncertainty for projects, and costs can be passed on ultimately to homebuyers, renters, and businesses. To help facilitate housing development in urban areas not meeting the density goals of a Comprehensive Plan, SEPA allows a city to prepare an EIS and adopt an ordinance establishing categorical exemptions. This means residential or mixed-use development that is consistent with City regulations will not undergo new environmental review. Instead it will focus on providing housing that fits with the form-based code, and meets other City code standards such as transportation concurrency, critical areas requirements, etc. Minor amounts of stand-alone commercial development are also allowed.
The EIS provides upfront environmental review for multiple properties, and the resulting Infill Exemption ordinance will save time and expense for all parties.
A plat is a legal subdivision of land into smaller lots or parcels for development, usually for the purposes of building single-family homes. Currently in Port Angeles, up to four lots can be created using the “short plat subdivision” process. The Community and Economic Development Director is responsible for reviewing and approving “preliminary short plats”. With approval, the developer installs or bonds infrastructure such as streets, utilities, and parks. The Community and Economic Development Director then reviews the infrastructure and makes a decision on the “final short plat”. With approval, the developer can then apply for building permits for home construction.
Larger subdivisions of five or more lots go through the regular “subdivision” process. This is the same as short plats, except for “preliminary plats” the project is first reviewed by the Planning Commission and a final decision is made by the City Council. The City Council also reviews the infrastructure makes a decision on the “final plat”.
Washington state law allows up to nine lots to be created in the short plat process. Port Angeles has chosen to adopt that standard up to the maximum allowed. This project will amend the subdivision code to implement the change, and may address other subdivision standards to improve code clarity and ease of administration.
- Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code Audit - Coming Soon
- Stakeholder Interviews Summary
- Workshop and Survey Summary
COMING SOON – CODE CONCEPTS AND CODE DRAFTS
Meetings and Presentations
All presentation links not in zoom require you click on the green arrow titled "stream"
- City Council – September 1, 2020 (Time Stamp 1:56:00)
- Planning Commission – September 9, 2020 (Time Stamp 00:22:00)
- City Council Work Session – April 27, 2021
- Click Here for the Presentation Slides (included in the survey as well)
- Click Here for the June 9th Workshop Recording
- Click Here to join the September 22 Planning Commission Draft Code Presentation
- Port Angeles Comprehensive Plan (2019)
- Housing Action Plan (2019)
- Downtown Port Angeles Sustainable Design Assessment – American Institute of Architects (2009)
- Envision Port Angeles Code Update Concurrent Process Webpage
Upcoming Public Engagement and Input Opportunities (Updated August 24th)
- Wednesday September 22nd: Presentation of Code Update to Planning Commission
- Wednesday, October 13th: Planning Commission Public Hearing
- Wednesday October 27th: Planning Commission Deliberation
- Tuesday, November 16th: City Council First reading of ordinance
- Tuesday, December 7th: City Council Decision
Have a comment or question about the project or proposed code changes? Contact city staff:
Director of Community and Economic Development