Pasco council says zoning code changes not ready for vote

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJuly 8, 2013 

After Pasco city staff and the planning commission worked on revisions to the city's zoning code for two years, the city council decided Monday that some of the changes still weren't ready for a vote.

At issue was a planning commission proposal to set a limit of 15 feet in height for detached garages built on smaller lots.

The council decided to send the proposal back for further review, asking the planning commission to work out a special permitting process that would allow for homes on smaller lots to build taller garages if they addressed concerns over how the building would look.

Council members Al Yenney, Tom Larsen and Bob Hoffmann all indicated that they would not vote for the current proposal because of concerns over private property rights.

"I don't think that just because somebody buys something less than a half acre, they can't enjoy their property," Yenney said. "I can't see why aesthetics should override property rights."

But council member Rebecca Francik, who led the meeting because Mayor Matt Watkins was absent, said she can see why people would be concerned over people putting up buildings that are too large.

"In my neighborhood, I have two neighbors who work on their cars constantly," she said. "If they were to put garages up, they would have me boxed in."

The council plans to vote on the remaining proposed zoning code changes at next week's meeting. The changes deal with the number of students allowed at in-home tutoring sessions and temporary buildings on construction sites, among other issues.

In other business Monday, the council agreed on proposed changes to its airport zoning code.

The council was prepared to move forward with the measure at its June 10 meeting, but Yenney wanted to know what impact the new designation could have on construction to the southeast of the airport, where a landowner had sought to build a new hotel for years.

Community and economic development director Rick White said staff determined the zoning revisions, which prevent buildings like schools and churches from being built in flight paths, would have little impact on the area southeast of the airport. That's why more emphasis was placed on residential areas southwest of the airport on the other side of Interstate 182.

The council also expressed support for extending a consulting agreement for a city lobbyist at the state level for an additional year.

In the eight years it has employed lobbyists, the city credits them with helping secure $3 million toward a planned Lewis Street overpass, $5.2 million for construction of the Ainsworth Avenue overpass and $400,000 for a Court Street pedestrian crossing at Highway 395.

The city hopes future lobbying can secure more funding for the proposed $31 million Lewis Street overpass and lead to reforms in the Public Records Act.

If approved, Pasco will pay Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs of Tacoma up to nearly $41,000 a year, or $3,150 a month plus up to $3,000 in expense reimbursements. That's an increase of around $200 a month from the expiring contract. City Manager Gary Crutchfield said that's the first raise the city has given the lobbyist in three years.

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