Kent Development Codes Update
REALTORS® are supporting efforts being led by the Masterbuilders of King and Snohomish County to work with top staff members of the City of Kent – including Kent’s new City Administrator Derek Matheson. The efforts are intended to result in amendments to the City’s development codes and guidelines in order to improve the opportunities for construction of new housing in the City.
Focal points of the opportunities to position Kent as a “destination of choice” for new private sector investment in the City’s residential tax base are: tree retention standards, diminished garages, and stormwater management.
The initial response from the City has been encouraging. The Masterbuilders noted that while Matheson was in Covington he led efforts to have that city adopt many common sense policy changes that were supportive of new development, approved by the City Council, and acceptable to residents.
To move the discussion forward, the Masterbuilders have produced a workable solution on the issue of diminished garages, which is to administratively produce a menu of design alternatives from submitted plans, supported by codification of the changes into city code.
Additionally, on Monday, February 9th, the Kent City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee supported a staff recommendation to study the issue of Kent’s tree retention standards. In particular, the City will be examining a tree credit ordinance drafted and proposed by the Masterbuilders and supported by the REALTORS®. The proposal would provide needed flexibility while also reducing costs and enhancing long-term sylvan values in the City. The City staffers expect to present their findings to the City’s Land Use and Planning Board (Kent’s Planning Commission) in late April, and to have a staff recommendation for the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee in May.
In addressing the issue for City Council members on February 9th the City’s staff advised council members that:
“The current tree preservation requirements were last updated in 2007. Since that time, staff has had many opportunities to apply the regulations, primarily during review of single-family subdivision applications.
This experience has revealed elements of the regulations that in application, conflict with other city requirements and often result in retention of trees that are incompatible with the new development.
For instance, when a tree grows in the open, it is exposed to the wind, and over time develops structural strength that keeps it standing in gusty conditions. Trees made strong by exposure to wind are called ‘wind firm’. Conversely, when a tree grows up surrounded by other trees, it is exposed to less pressure from the wind, and develops less structural strength. When a wooded site is developed, removal of many trees is usually necessary. Those that are left standing as required by Kent’s current regulations are often not wind firm and are thus not suitable to remain in close proximity to homes. This is but one example of an unintended consequence connected with the current tree regulations that could be addressed through an update of Kent’s tree preservation code.”