LEAVENWORTH — The Leavenworth City Council has unanimously passed building regulations to incentivize development and increase housing density.
The “planned development” building regulations would allow developers to build in the city without some of the zoning restrictions that would normally apply, said Lilith Vespier, Leavenworth’s development services manager. The projects that can use these regulations include a minimum 6,000-square-foot affordable housing project or a minimum 24,000-square-foot project.
“The planned development regulations have been on the books for over 40 years and they have only been used three times and developed once,” Vespier said. “So, we wanted to review them and put in more incentives to encourage developers to create more density and provide a variety of housing.”
The regulations were passed Tuesday with no public testimony and almost no discussion from the councilmembers.
The base zoning regulations would still apply, so a hotel couldn’t go into a residential neighborhood, she said. But it would allow a developer to reduce setbacks and create smaller lot sizes.
“The planned development does allow for a small portion (of residential), 10%, to be commercial,” Vespier said. “But that commercial is limited to supporting the neighborhood — say, a small coffee shop or a dry cleaners.”
The ordinance also ensures that height limitations on the underlying zoning must be obeyed, she said. So a five-story apartment building couldn’t be built next to a residential home.
The regulations eliminated reduced parking options for affordable housing projects, requiring one parking spot per 1,500-square-foot house, Vespier said. Some members of the public were concerned due to the limited amount of parking available in the city.
“A lot of people were concerned about ensuring people had a parking space off the street,” she said. “Because here in Leavenworth you can’t park on the street during the winter months, because they do snow removal.”
The regulations also clarified that yards don’t count for open space and made shared parking agreements permanent for the life of a development, she said.
Open space is natural areas like courtyards, play structures or open fields that some developments are required to build. Shared parking is an agreement between two buildings to share a parking lot, like between a church and a natural food market.