News

Code revisions affect subdivisions, downtown

Oak Harbor planning staff members are immersing themselves in two separate code revisions.

The first will significantly rework the city subdivision regulations while the other will ultimately implement more refined design regulations for the downtown’s Harborside District.

Senior Planner Rob Voigt presented details of the undertakings to the Oak Harbor Planning Commission this month. The purpose of the subdivision code revisions is multifaceted, designed to examine livability, which includes street and block patterns, buffers and landscaping, connectivity between developments for pedestrians and cyclists, and parking.

“We want to develop a more contemporary set of regulations for the community that affect how our new neighborhoods feel, look, function, and connect with the existing community,” he explained.

Voigt said the city won a competitive planning grant from the Washington state Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development that will provide enough assistance to ensure the project is community-driven and completed in-house.

“We’re going to drive this as a community issue,” he said.

The senior planner will employ new methods to engage the community and facilitate dialogue. In addition to a Web blog that will soon go live, Voigt said staff will conduct small group roundtables and even coffeehouse displays.

“We’re trying to provide a whole series of ways to get people involved,” he said.

Community participation is vital before a subdivision is approved and especially effective during policy and regulation development, Voigt said, as the discussion can be more expansive and varied. The separate projects will generate rules or parameters that can be applied to future endeavors.

“The success of using quality contemporary design regulations to guide new development within our community can be seen with recent developments in the city which all highlight pedestrian-scaled street oriented design, with context and connectivity in mind,” Voigt said, specifically highlighting Banner Bank, Harbor Station, and Walgreens. “These, in addition to a number of recent multi-family projects built under the same principles, have garnered numerous compliments for the planning department.”

Voigt underscored the importance of noting that the development rules belong to the community and are designed to fulfill the vision outlined in the Comprehensive Plan, which is an amalgamation of community input.

“These are your rules,” he said. “The two sets of regulations will influence how every new subdivision is evaluated in the future; as well as the form new development takes in our community’s historic center.

“By getting involved at the inception, residents are intimately familiar with a plan before it moves forward.”

Voigt told the planning commissioners the public outreach will begin almost immediately. The planning staff is currently examining existing subdivisions to compile data that will be useful in making the revisions. He expects the endeavor to be completed by April 2009.

“We’ll be getting public input throughout the project,” he said.

Design regulations for the Harborside District will be set using a shorter, five-month timeline.

“The design project refines the existing design regulations for the Harborside District based on work recently completed by the city and Harborside stakeholders as part of the Windjammer program,” Voigt said.

Working also with Beckwith Consulting, the city’s objective was to restore the character, integrity and visual appeal of the existing downtown buildings.

He assured the commission that the city is not setting regulations for a specific architectural theme but is instead introducing “sound urban design and quality design concepts.”

“In many cases it’s very site specific,” Voigt said, adding that the regulations will be focused on new construction and remodels.

Harborside was identified as one of three districts in Oak Harbor where refined design regulations and well thought-out plans would be a boon to commerce and overall livability in the city.

“Highway 20 and the Midway corridors are also identified in the existing design regulations as areas where specific design requirements address the unique contexts of these areas, and will eventually be enhanced even further as the Harborside district regulations are now being amended with the current project,” Voigt said.

Community outreach will also be an ongoing component of the projects. Anyone with questions can contact Voigt at 279-4513 or by email at rvoigt@oakharbor.org.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 30 edition online now. Browse the archives.