The Washington Planning and Zoning Commission has made strides in addressing entry-level housing in the past five years.

That is one accomplishment of the commission in relationship to the city’s comprehensive plan, according to Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci.

Maniaci Monday presented the planning board with the city comprehensive plan’s implantation strategy.

“There are many objectives that this commission has been vital in implementing and achieving the past five years, and I’m proud of the progress we’ve made,” Maniaci said.

At the halfway mark of the city’s 10-year comprehensive plan, the plan board was asked to grade how the city met goals and objectives, and submit changes and suggestions to prioritize the document. The plan was approved in 2013.

Maniaci also solicited areas where additional focus is needed.

The master plan features six focus segments: aesthetics, civic improvement, land use, transportation/infrastructure, parks/recreation/open space, and economic development.

Each focus area has several goals and objectives to meet. There are about 42 goals and 144 objectives.

The plan is designed to help city officials anticipate future land usage, which is beneficial when looking at zoning requests, as well as when the city is looking at its transportation networks and development.

Progress Made

According to Maniaci, there have been four recent rezoning requests for multifamily buildings. He added that construction has not yet begun on those, but he expects structures to be erected in the future.

“I think we will see our housing diversified in the next year,” he said.

For example, the city has amended codes to allow for smaller lot sizes for single-family homes, and allowed for greater density in multifamily zoned districts. 

In addition, the city “clarified its planned residential district to allow for more unique development districts,” Maniaci said.

The planning board, Maniaci commented, also has sufficiently incorporated future road connections in preliminary plat recommendations. That includes the future planning for an east-west connection to alleviate traffic on Rabbit Trail Drive.

Maniaci said the plan board has been diligent in requiring developers to include plans for future roads instead of stubbing streets and delaying development.

He added that the city and plan board has been successful in stormwater and utility infrastructure expansion too.

Future Goals

Maniaci explained that sidewalks and bike paths were highly rated in the comprehensive plan.

He suggested that more sidewalks be included in plats during the planning process. 

“This tool could be utilized more often to achieve this goal,” Maniaci stated.

The planning department reviews development plans in Franklin County that are within 1 1/2 miles of the city limits, which could impact the city. 

It was suggested that future land use maps be reviewed more often.

Planning board member John Borgmann questioned if the city could look further out for potential development. 

Maniaci stated the county is not required to submit information for more than 1 1/2  miles, but that he would be in contact with the county planning department to try to get that information when a plan is submitted.

Building Materials

One area that the planning commission has not addressed, nor has been asked to address is reviewing types of building materials used in the community.

Architectural review is utilized by the Washington Historic Preservation Commission, but not the city.

Chuck Watson, plan board member, suggested the board consider building materials more often.

He suggested minimum standards in areas like downtown. He cited that a trend elsewhere is the use of shipping containers for homes. He added that should not be permitted, 

Maniaci stated that could be explored. 

“If we talk about architectural standards, signs are a good place to start,” he added.

Another future goal is a comprehensive plan review subcommittee, which would track progress on plan objectives. Borgmann volunteered to serve on that subcommittee.