City of Washington

Following a lengthy discussion Monday night, the Washington Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to endorse zoning code recommendations aimed at encouraging the construction of affordable housing in the city.

The vote was 7 to 1 to recommend that the city council adopt the code changes, including:

• Development of a new R-1D, single-family residential district with minimum lot sizes of 7,500 square feet and 60-foot-wide frontages and 6-foot-wide side yards;

• Change the lot sizes in the current R-1B, single-family residential districts from 10,000 to 6,000 square feet in areas with similar lot sizes with specific boundaries; and

• Maintain current street and right of way width standards.

The commission also agreed to look at amending the PUD (planned unit development) to allow smaller lots within an approved development based on the overall zoning, be R-1A or R-1D.

The recommendations are the same made by a subcommittee composed of city officials, realtors, developers and builders that considered changes that could be made to city codes to reduce the cost of new home construction for developers and consumers.

The council will hold public hearings before any code changes can be made.

Kevin Cundiff, board member, was the only one voting against the changes. He had argued for some type of architectural review of new construction which the subcommittee, and the full plan board, rejected because of anticipated enforcement problems after a subdivision has been under development for some time.

“The city’s never been in the business of saying what houses should look like,” remarked Mayor Sandy Lucy. “I don’t think we want to go down that path.”

Dan Boyce, city engineer, said he reviewed codes of 15 different cities in the region and none have established architectural review standards.

The board members and Cameron Lueken, an engineer who has developed many subdivisions in the area, went back and forth over the width of proposed new lots. Lueken supported going with 50-foot-wide lots in the R-1D district.

Boyce, meanwhile, argued that the wider lots would offer a developer more flexibility in the construction of homes.

Mark Piontek, city counselor, asked about the motivation to come up with affordable housing. He said all of the things being proposed would reduce the cost to develop land in the city.

“What assurances do we have that the savings will be passed on to the homeowner?” Piontek asked.

“You need to provide opportunities” for more affordable housing, Lueken said, adding that there are no guarantees that developers will pass along savings.

“By doing some of these things, we hope to be able to provide homes in the $150,000 to $200,000 price range,” Boyce said. “Realtors say that they will sell. The developers said they could start building tomorrow” if the codes are relaxed.