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Monday, February 26, 2024
Feb. 26, 2024

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Vancouver updates comprehensive plan, zoning code but some property owners unhappy

Officials say changes align with ‘20-minute neighborhoods’ goal

By , Columbian staff writer

A handful of changes to the city of Vancouver’s comprehensive plan and zoning code Monday reflect the community’s positioning for future growth and density.

Altogether, the revisions increase density and community commercial zones in select locations throughout Vancouver, which city officials said align with their goal to create “20-minute neighborhoods” and boost retail districts.

The most discussed map change centers around a 2-acre site on First Street near the city of Camas border, which will be classified as a community commercial zone from its previous urban low density. This grouping allows for the development of retail, office and limited housing types — if part of a mixed-use plan.

Members of Vancouver’s planning commission initially opposed the zone change, reasoning the land’s commercial designation could pose a challenge for future developments in adjacent lots. In a similar vein, they said it would make dense residential construction less likely nearby.

To this, a legal representative for the zone change applicant, Karen Schwartz, who owns a business on the property, contested that the area is not fit for housing.

“The cow is really out of the barn on this site,” said Steve Horenstein, Schwartz’s lawyer.

First Street, once a residential street and now a four-lane arterial, has traffic zipping around the vicinity. Horenstein said reserving it for residential buildings would be irrational and pose a threat to other businesses operating along the stretch.

Council members unanimously agreed the change would allow for more opportunities and accommodate business expansion, which they acknowledged was more appropriate given the surrounding environment.

Farther south, more than 8 acres formerly home to Lieser School, 301 S. Lieser Road, will change from urban low-density to urban high-density zoning to accommodate future growth on the property. The Vancouver Housing Authority, the site owner, plans to develop a fire station, park, about 10 townhomes, 100 affordable housing units and an early childhood development facility.

Victor Caesar, Vancouver Housing Authority’s chief real estate officer, said the agency can proceed with its community outreach process to create a design now that the zone has been revised.

Lastly, a 0.8-acre site, containing three lots located at the corner of Northeast 52nd and 94th streets, near Vancouver Mall will change from commercial to urban high-density zoning, allowing for the future construction of 11 townhome units.

Vancouver’s planning commission posed that the site has potential to meet housing needs and wouldn’t hinder the city’s commercial development, as the surrounding areas have an abundance of commercial zones. The city received one letter of opposition from someone who reasoned that the 0.8-acre site should remain classified as commercial, arguing that businesses would generate more revenue for the city.

This zone change will likely relocate mobile home residents who currently live on the site.

A full list of the approved revisions can be viewed on the city of Vancouver’s website.

Impact fees

Recently proposed school impact fees for development within the Vancouver Public Schools boundary changed slightly. The fees, proposed by the school district, are now $2,786 for single-family homes and $2,486 per multifamily unit.

These one-time fees for developers are created using variables spanning from a school’s estimated cost per student to a district’s bond and levy rates. They are intended to reduce strain on school resources but, if the rates become too high for developers, could risk future production of affordable housing, some councilors cautioned.

Columbian staff writer