Olympia's comp plan revisions target everything from zoning to speed limits

OlympianFebruary 25, 2014 

The Olympia City Council reviewed a set of proposed changes to the comprehensive plan Tuesday at its weekly meeting.

The plan outlines the city’s goals and vision for the next 20 years. City staff and the city manager have recommended revisions for 14 areas of the plan, such as zoning, streets, planning, speed limits, disaster preparedness, park maintenance funding, urban green space and sea levels. Many suggestions centered on updating and revising policy language to suit current resources.

The council did not take official action regarding the plan, but rather recommended future work sessions to flesh out some of the proposed changes, which include:

• Lowering speed limits to 25 mph on local access streets and in the city center, with 20 mph limits possible in school zones or near playgrounds. Another suggestion was to establish a 35 mph limit on all arterial roads. Steve Langer was among the council members who suggested experimenting with new speed limits in one zone before trying them citywide. “Friction” devices could help slow traffic in certain areas, according to staff.

• Fewer exceptions to the city’s street connectivity policy for small streets that connect larger arterials. “The more we can rely on a system of small streets, the less we have to widen our bigger, higher-volume streets,” said Sophie Stimson, city planner.

Also discussed was the proposed connection of Park Drive Southwest to Kaiser Road for vehicles as well as bikes and pedestrians. Park Drive is currently a dead-end street. Nearby residents have voiced concerns about the proposed connection.

• The planning commission recommended requiring alleys in all new developments, but city staff recommends “encouraging” alleys instead of requiring them. Although alleys contribute to street access and mobility while minimizing the need for driveways, no funding is available to maintain more alleys, Stimson said. She added that alleys create more impervious surfaces that can increase problems with rainwater runoff.

• New criteria for rezoning would make it possible to rezone a property without also requiring a comprehensive plan amendment, as is the case now.

City staff also suggests targeting three areas for high-density residential development. Those areas would be downtown Olympia, the “triangle” at Pacific Avenue/Martin Way/Lilly Road, and the Capital Mall vicinity. Density would be proposed at 25 dwelling units per acre, with a minimum of 15 units per acre.

The public can learn more about the comprehensive plan online at imagineolympia.com.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869 or ahobbs@theolympian.com

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