Sea-level rise a part of Olympia comprehensive plan

The Olympia Planning Commission has finished its recommendations on the draft update of the city’s comprehensive plan, an effort that has been years in the making.

Planning Commission Chairman Jerry Parker gave the council a peek at some of the proposed regulations Tuesday night, but the full draft isn’t expected to be released until May 20. Amy Buckler, a city planner, said city staff are working to have the plan ready for approval by the end of the year. It’s up to the council to make the final decision on the plan.

The major update of the master plan, the first since the current plan was enacted in 1994, covers a lot of territory, including value and vision statements, sea-level rise, urban agriculture, downtown planning, street connectivity, view corridors and building height limits, urban corridors, and neighborhoods.

Parker’s preview for the council indicated that the expected sea-level rise because of global warming is a major focus of the plan. The commission urged the city to “consider all policy options including future retreat” from shoreline areas that could be flooded, he said.

Parker said the two topics that generated the most public feedback were street connectivity and urban corridors.

City planners often favor more streets connecting, rather than cul-de-sacs emptying onto major corridors. But that sometimes causes conflicts from residents, who don’t want through traffic heading down their neighborhood streets. A proposed extension of Decatur Street has rankled people on the west side, for example.

Parker said the commission recommends any decision on whether to extend Decatur Street should be contingent on the second phase of the West Olympia Access Study. The commission also urges that an intersection of Kaiser Road and Park Drive be limited to emergency vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

Parker said the commission recommends view protection should be a separate goal.

Several council members commended the planning commission on its work, which was in addition to a staff-recommended plan issued last year.

That plan called for neighborhoods to create sub-area plans for sections of the city. It also proposed maintaining existing building-height limits and protecting specific iconic views, such as the Capitol Dome and Mount Rainier, as well as certain view corridors.

The staff plan sets goals of maintaining public control of shorelines and considering “acquisition of saltwater shoreline property to create public access on a case-by-case basis.”