FCC Highlight Reel:
AN INDUSTRIAL REZONE?
by Kirby Lindsay
The Fremont Chamber of Commerce monthly Board of Directors meetings take place on the last Wednesday of every month, including in November where it can get wedged in around Thanksgiving when few thoughts are given to “meeting” (rather, thoughts turn to “how fast can I get out of here?”)
As a result, the meeting held on November 23rd had sparse attendance. Those Board members who attended still addressed business including their current election (the Chamber elects six members of its 18-seat Board each year), their annual awards (presented at their Holiday Party December 2), pending Aurora Bridge barrier construction and their web site.
To Rezone or Not To Rezone
Many eyes glaze over at any mention of zoning, understandably. It’s not a sexy subject. Right now, however, the City of Seattle Department of Planning & Development (DPD) has proposed changes to zoning designations in Fremont’s industrial areas. At a recent open house on these proposed changes, Andrea Petzel of DPD, told one group that the proposed changes would not affect businesses already here. Yet, these changes can affect plans to expand, remodel or reconfigure within local companies. Zoning usually focuses on the future – and what is planned for the area – in their discussion though, the Fremont Chamber Board focused entirely on the needs of current businesses located in the affected areas.
DPD designated ‘Subarea 1’
Now begins an alphabet soup of designations. Industrial areas in West Fremont currently zoned IG2 (General Industrial 2) and a sliver along Leary Way NW designated IB (Industrial Buffer) would, under the DPD proposal, become IC (Industrial Commercial).
English translations of these designations have proven difficult to find. Some DPD information defines IG1 (not 2) as areas that allow manufacturing and industrial use. IB covers areas set between industrial uses and residential or commercial, having a pedestrian character. An IC zone incorporates a mix of industrial and commercial activities including light manufacturing, research and development, and a other employment activities – but not residential uses.
The Board voted to write a letter of support for these proposed changes. One argument in favor held that IG2 no longer fit many businesses actually located in the Fremont industrial area, while IC does.
DPD designated ‘Subarea 2’
Comparatively, the matter of nearly four blocks surrounding Stone Way, between North 34th and 36th Streets, boils down more simply. The proposed change, from IC-45 to IC-65, concerns height limits – to allow buildings built in this area to be up to 65 feet tall.
All this height will probably never be noticed by those of us on the sidewalk. In the early 1900s, when the City built a bridge to cross Lake Union at the foot of Stone, engineers raised the street to meet the bridge. These surrounding properties remained at the natural grade, and for many years thereafter surveyors measured heights of the buildings from street level - from the roadway to the roof.
Recently, surveys measure buildings from the base of their foundation to the roof, setting their height suddenly above the current 45 foot limit. The Fremont Chamber Board voted to write another letter, in support of raising the height limit.
The Chamber didn’t discuss one remaining portion of the DPD proposal – application of Green Factor and Design Review standards to developments and large remodels within the IC zone of an Urban Village.
When Not Everyone Agrees
Discussion of this topic touched briefly on a conflict – not all Chamber members agree about the proposed changes. One contrary view, held by local landlord Brian Regan, has been detailed on the FremontUniverse.com forum and, using some extreme examples, on his blog. The Chamber attempts to advocate on behalf of a variety of businesses - retail, industrial, service, artistic, restaurants, etc – although their needs can be adversarial.
In the end, the Board decided to write letters, despite potential disapproval, due to requests from member businesses located in the area under consideration that the Chamber come to their aid.
So concluded 2009 as the Fremont Chamber Board will not meet in December. Their next meeting, at History House on Wednesday, January 27 at 8 a.m., will feature a few newly elected members, and anyone else who cares to attend.
A Note to Readers: Columnist Kirby Lindsay owns property within the Fremont industrial area, although under this proposal no change will be made to the zoning designation on her property.
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.