June 17, 2011
Cars were the hot topic this week during the U.P. City Council’s discussion regarding potential “drive throughs” in Town Center along with Electric Vehicle Charging stations.
Drive Throughs – Several Planning Commission recommendations regarding options for new drive throughs in the Town Center Zone were presented to council this week.
There are two distinct areas within the Town Center Zone:
a) The overall Town Center is located along Bridgeport Way from 35th to 44th St., and;
b) The Town Center overlay which primarily encompasses City owned property from 35th to Homestead Park along both sides of Bridgeport Way.
Right now, new drive through uses are prohibited within the Town Center. This decision was made several years ago to conform with the City’s Comprehensive Plan to create a well designed, pedestrian friendly and community oriented Town Center area. Prohibiting new drive throughs would also encourage people to get out of their cars and shop in various stores.
Earlier this year, the City received a request from Mr. Nat Franklin, owner of Green Firs shopping center, to allow drive throughs for banks and pharmacies throughout the entire Town Center. (Mr. Franklin is interested in redeveloping Shari’s Restaurant into a drive through bank along with relocating a pharmacy with a new drive through at another location.)
Council subsequently asked the Planning Commission to review this request along with examining whether other types of drive through uses (such as restaurants and coffee shops) should be allowed within the Town Center.
After several public meetings, the Planning Commission made the following recommendations regarding new drive through uses:
Pharmacies – Allow in the entire Town Center area with a conditional use permit that would require developers to meet a minimum of two additional standards such as providing additional walkways or plazas when the proposal is located within an existing commercial center. Any entrances/exits within the Town Center Overlay could only occur off of 35th Street, Larson Lane and a portion of Drexler Drive north of Market Court West.
Banks – Only allowed in the Town Center area which does NOT include the overlay area. Any new uses would require a conditional use permit and when placed within an existing commercial center the proposal would have to provide two additional pedestrian amenities within the center.
Restaurants/Coffee Shops – No new drive throughs allowed.
The question of whether or not to allow new drive throughs involves numerous issues. For example, some people believe that drive throughs should be allowed everywhere and that people are strictly interested in convenience. Others believe we already have an ample selection of fast food, banks and drive through pharmacies and that the current Town Center vision provides a pedestrian friendly area in which people will be encouraged to get out of their cars and shop in several stores, versus driving elsewhere.
Increasing sales tax revenue was a primary factor behind the Town Center vision. Some businesses, such as banks, do not provide any additional revenue to the City. Other businesses, such as fast food, do provide revenue; however, we need to decide whether we want more fast food versus keeping conditions in place to attract other types of desired businesses.
Balancing the City’s long term interests versus what is best for an individual business, potential noise and litter and whether allowing one use will open up the door to future drive throughs were also discussed.
We very much appreciated the Planning Commission’s work and thoughtful approach to this complicated issue. Council is scheduled to take public comment and consider this issue on July 18. For more information, please contact Kbriske@CityofUP.com
Other council items included:
Electric Vehicles – “Gentlemen, charge your engines” takes on a whole new meaning under regulations being developed for electric vehicles. Under state law, all municipalities must allow battery charging stations by July 1, 2011 to encourage electric vehicle use throughout the state.
Under proposals, there are three levels of battery charging stations which are based on the voltage at which the battery is recharged:
a) Level 1 – Slow charging (15-20 amp breaker) on a 120-volt alternating current circuit and standard outlet;
b) Level 2 – Medium charging (40 amp to 100 amp breaker) on a 208 or 240 volt AC circuit; and
b) Level 3 – Rapid charging primarily for commercial and public applications. Operates on 60-amp or higher on a 480-volt or higher three phase circuit with special grounding equipment.
In residential zones use and locations of Level 1 and 2 battery and electric vehicle charging stations are restricted to privately owned, noncommercial use by residents of the dwelling unit where the station is located. Unrestricted Level 1, 2 and 3 electric vehicle and battery charging stations are allowed in commercial zones. Battery Exchange Stations can only be located where gas stations are currently allowed.
Due to the rising price of gasoline, more and more people are seeking information about alternatives including electric vehicles. Although this proposal would allow
battery charging stations, it is up to private individuals and businesses to determine whether they want to provide such stations. For more information, please contact dswindale@CityofUP.com
*Bridgeport Road Improvements – Approval to purchase land and a vacant house near 54th and Bridgeport Way for necessary right of way and temporary construction easements to accommodate the construction of bicycle lanes, lights, curb and sidewalks for $171,700. The project is 86.5% reimbursable through federal highway funds with the remainder from budgeted city funds.
*Safe Routes to Schools – Authorized a $8,422 change order to improve safety along 40th Street by relocating a driveway and restriping an existing parking lot. This project is 100% grant funded.
On a personal note, I am saddened to report that CORE Chairwoman Faye Anderson passed away this week after a long illness. Faye was extremely involved with various activities within the Curran Apple Orchard Park including educational classes, pruning parties and the annual Cider Squeeze. She was a wonderful person and will be deeply missed.
Finally, Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there!
As always, I am happy to receive your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me at dklosowski@CityofUP.com
Mayor, City of University Place