Council approves Van Mall North annexation

Vancouver City Council discusses ADUs, animals, RV parking

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

Published:

 

The city of Vancouver’s population will increase by about 4,600 residents on Aug. 1.

On Monday night, the Vancouver City Council approved annexing the area known as Van Mall North, an area of approximately 2 square miles or 1,270 acres, effective at the end of the summer.

The city is hoping its new residents feel welcome. But not everyone does.

The annexation has long been controversial, with residents joining forces to testify against the move. The area includes Green Meadows, an unincorporated Clark County area, where some residents have voiced opposition to being part of the city. Residents have worried about how their services would be impacted, a possible increase in taxes and utilities, and concern that a golf course in the Green Meadows area would be developed into condominiums.

But Art Stubbs, who has long been vocal about his concerns, changed his tone Monday night, complementing the city staff on all their work and he said he’s worked with the golf course to ensure they have no plans to sell. He said he would like to work with the city to ensure it has first rights of refusal if the golf course does intend to sell someday.

Some residents pushed the city to allow them to vote on the annexation. But state law allows a city to annex an area if it has signatures from property owners who own at least 60 percent of its property value. The city of Vancouver has those signatures, obtained through covenants that residents signed when they purchased homes and connected to city services.

Stubbs said now that he will be a city resident, he’s been doing his research.

“I’m also trying to get educated on your other issues, now that I’m going to be a member of your city,” Stubbs said.

Animals

The city also considered updating their code to create a standard around the number of dogs, cats, rabbits and hens people can keep on their property. Councilors are considering limiting the number of dogs to three, and the number of cats, rabbits and hens to five. Peacocks, roosters and turkeys are already currently not allowed.

But after hearing testimony from the public, councilors held off on voting. Councilor Alishia Topper suggested an amendment that would allow an exception for people who are partnered with a state or federally recognized nonprofit to foster animals.

Ken Davis, who lives in Vancouver Heights and has three dogs and one cat, said he would consider moving out of the city because of the animal ordinance. Davis said he works with a lot of abused and abandoned animals with the humane society.

He urged councilors not to base the rule on the number of animals, but how well the animals are being taken care of.

RVs and boats

The city also voted to clarify its code to ensure vehicles and vessels parked in driveways are licensed and registered.

Several people testified on the matter, from those who complained their neighbors had mold-and-rat-filled, unused RVs sitting in their driveway to another retired elderly man who said he can’t afford storing his older sailboat anywhere but his driveway.

“If you’re trying to make a gated community out of Vancouver, I’m probably in the wrong city,” Huston Gruer said. “There are working-class people that live in the city of Vancouver and I’m one of them.”

But Councilor Jack Burkman pointed out the vote really only made one change: requiring the vehicles be legally registered and licensed. Recreational vehicles and boats can still be parked in the driveway if it’s an impervious surface.

Accessory dwelling units

With low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rental prices, the city of Vancouver is in the midst of considering whether part of a solution to the housing crisis could be accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.

Despite all the talk of tiny homes lately, since 2000 only about 65 small dwelling units have been built citywide. The last time the city updated ADU regulations was in 2004.

During a workshop Monday, city councilors considered making some changes that include: the size of the ADUs, what type of building setbacks should be applied, whether on-site parking should be required, whether the design and appearance needs to be consistent with the main house and whether the main unit must be owner-occupied at least six months per year.

Current city code dictates ADUs must be bigger than 300 square feet but have a maximum size of 400 square feet or 40 percent of the main house.

Councilors are considering increasing the size to 50 percent of the main house, but the ADU would still need to be less than 800 square feet. They are considering allowing more than 800 square feet for basement conversions.

Councilor Alishia Topper said it’s clear the rules aren’t working if only 65 units have been built in the past 17 years. And she said although ADUs might not be the solution to the affordable housing crisis, they could increase capacity.

Councilor Jack Burkman warned the city should take small, incremental steps before making sweeping changes to the rules regulating additional dwelling units.

The council decided to hold another work session on the matter before moving to a public hearing.