Kalama Planning Commission Recommends Council Approval of Lofts Apartments with Conditions | Government and politics

KALAMA – After four months of meetings, the Kalama Planning Commission voted on Thursday to recommend that the city council approve, with several conditions, a multi-family development project.

Terms proposed by staff and amended by planning commissioners on Thursday include increasing the parking ratio to 1.9 spaces per unit; remove four buildings in the northwest corner to expand the park; development of parks and dog park areas; and dedicate the “club house” building to the city and consider its parking separately from the parking lot of the residence.

Staff have updated their recommended terms to address concerns raised by the public and commissioners over the past three meetings, including parking, traffic, density and open space, said Todd Johnson, council planner for the city.

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The Lofts at Kalama LLC, represented by Windsor Engineers, is proposing a phased development of the 17-acre site at 6445 Old Pacific Highway south of downtown to include a combination of three- and four-story buildings accommodating up to 299 units. The building removal condition reduces the number of units to 275, counting the clubhouse as one unit.

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As a planned unit development, the developer can propose a site that differs from basic zoning standards, and the commission and council have more discretion to judge and approve or disapprove plans, depending on city code. .

The updated staff report and proposed conditions of approval presented Thursday included the removal of four six-plex buildings on the northwest edge of the site adjacent to the park to expand open space.

Johnson said the original open space calculations included landscaping and wetland buffers that the public cannot use, so staff suggested expanding the park. The total open space also included 5,000 square feet of the proposed pavilion building, so the staff report suggests making it a public building or including that amount of open space elsewhere.

Commissioner Patrick Harbison suggested that as a public building, the clubhouse could potentially replace the aging community building in Kalama.

Commissioner Craig Frkovich expressed concern that the building did not have enough parking spaces for the public.

President Lynn Hughes said parking is already a problem at the existing community building, which is “a mess”.

“The basement is deplorable and would cost millions to get up to code,” she said. “It would probably cost more to renovate than it is worth.”

Commissioner Kim Freeman said while including community space in a pavilion would be “wonderful,” 5,000 square feet is not enough for the growing city. Making the building public would create more work and continue a problem the city hasn’t figured out how to solve downtown, she said.

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Harbison requested leaving the building in a later phase of the project, rather than moving it up as a public space, as the first phase is at the opposite end of the site.

In a 4-3 decision, the commission decided to require the clubhouse to be dedicated to the city rather than leaving it to the developer. The conditions also provide that the building must comply with municipal standards and that its parking must be considered separately from residential parking.

City Administrator Adam Smee said that as a public building, the clubhouse would be maintained with dollars from the general fund.

The removal of the 24 units on the northwest side also increases the parking ratio to 1.73 spaces per unit, according to the staff report. The planning commission previously said it wanted the developer to increase parking by 30%. Johnson said to achieve this, the developer would need a parking ratio of about 1.9 spaces per unit, and the commission agreed to make that a condition.

As another condition, Hughes suggested that walking paths be lighted and dog parks be fenced and include litter stations, access to fresh water and shade trees.

Staff also offered to have the developer work with the fire department to secure space for emergency vehicles to address concerns from the Cowlitz County Fire District 5.

Kalama Planning Commission eyes 300 unit apartment complex

The commission unanimously agreed to recommend to the council to give the preliminary approval of the platform and the license of the critical areas with the conditions discussed.

Smee said city council could consider the recommendation at its April 7 meeting or April 21 if members want more time to consider the information.

The hearing before the board will be “closed,” meaning no new testimony may be entered into the record by the public or the plaintiff, Smee said. Counsel may ask questions or clarify testimony that is part of the record.

Council can then approve the planning commission‘s recommendation, reject it, modify it and either approve it or send it back to the commission for reconsideration.

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