Commission asks for changes to downtown plan

MONTESANO — Montesano Planning Commission members last week directed staff to revise their much debated new street and design standards.

Planning Commission Chairman Will Foster says the biggest change is on the implementation side to ensure that current building uses would, basically, stay the same. The goal, Foster said, is to concentrate mainly on new buildings that would be built in city limits, not on renovations of current buildings. The original proposal would have forced owners of existing buildings who make improvements valued at 60 percent of the current assessed value of their property to obey the proposed new standards, as well.

“After much talk, we decided to get rid of that provision,” Foster said. Gone, also, is a requirement forcing existing owners to go by the new standards if a planned renovation alters more than 30 percent of the existing facades.

The Montesano City Council will review the new proposals during a special work session planned for 6:30 p.m. today at City Hall.

A public hearing on the plan last month drew a mixed reaction with more than 30 people in the audience.

Foster said that the Planning Commission is trying to find a balanced approach, while still coming up with building guidelines so someone doesn’t just put up a building covered with metal siding and stick it downtown.

“Right now, with no standards, that could happen,” Foster said.

The plan still divides the city into specific zones, each with different characteristics. The zones includes the Civic District, the Residential Mixed-Use District, the Main Street District, the Town Square, the Arts & Entertainment District and the Gateway District. Foster did correct the record, noting that although development standard handouts included pictures of what each zone could look like, he said that there is no specific color schemes that would be mandated. For instance, a picture showing a commercial building resembling a house doesn’t necessarily mean that’s exactly what the building would have to look like in that zone, per the new standards.

“Those are just examples of what it could look like, not what it would have to look like,” he said. “… The standards do not dictate a look or style. The illustrations are only for the purpose of demonstrating elements of design criteria.”