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One and Three-quarter Rule Subdivision request of Margo Hammond re 1100 21st Street Street (aka R. T. Hammond Short Plat #2289)

Hearing Examiner #: HE-13-PL-002
Planning #:SUB2008-00010 / VAR2008-00009
Incident #:
Filing Date:02/13/2013
City Contact:Lindsay Kershner
Hearing Date: 03/13/2013
Description: One and Three-quarter Rule Subdivision request of Margo Hammond re 1100 21st Street Street (aka R. T. Hammond Short Plat #2289)
Decision Date: 03/22/2013
Decision Summary:Approved with conditions.

This matter came before the Bellingham Hearing Examiner for hearing on the 13th day of March 2013 on the application of Margo Hammond for variances from lot width requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code to short plat property located at 1100 21st Street in Bellingham.
Testimony was received from Lindsay Kershner, Bellingham Planning and Community Development Department; Margo Hammond, Applicant; and Michael McAllister, 1408 21st Street.
In addition to the Bellingham Municipal Code and Comprehensive Plan, the following documents were considered as part of the record: See Exhibit List.

1. Margo Hammond applied for variances from lot width requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code to divide property located at 1100 21st Street into two lots.
2. The subject property is located at the southwest corner of 21st Street and Knox Avenue. It is in Area 5 of the Happy Valley Neighborhood. This area is designated Residential Single, Detached, Cluster Attached, 5,000 square feet minimum detached lot size, 3,750 square feet minimum cluster attached lot size. Special conditions include drainage, floodplain, stream setbacks and clearing. Existing duplexes in the area established prior to 2001 are also permitted. A Conceptual Green Infrastructure Plan is included in the Happy Valley Neighborhood Plan.
3. The zoning designation for the area was changed in 2001 from Residential Multi-Duplex to Residential Single.
4. Properties on the other side of Knox Avenue are in Area 1A of the Happy Valley Neighborhood which is designated Residential Multi, Multiple.
5. Within a two-block radius of the subject property is a mixture of single-family homes, duplexes and multi-family structures. Other properties in the area are developed on lots that are less than 50 feet in width. One residence within the same block is on a lot that is 33 feet wide. Two properties on the other side of 21st Street contain single-family residences on 25-foot wide lots.
6. The property is legally described as Lots 1, 2 and 3, Block 87, Fairhaven Land Company's First Addition to Fairhaven. It contains 9,775 square feet of area. An existing house constructed in 1909 and two detached accessory buildings are located on the property.
7. The property is 85 feet in width fronting on 21st Street and approximately 115 feet in depth.
8. The Applicant proposes to divide the property into two lots. The existing house and one of the accessory buildings would remain on proposed Lot 1. Proposed Lot 1 would contain approximately 5,175 square feet. Proposed Lot 2 would contain approximately 4,600 square feet. A retaining wall, decking attached to the house and an accessory building that sits on the proposed lot line would be removed.
9. The Applicant requests a variance from lot width requirements. Proposed Lot 1 at the corner of 21st Street and Knox Avenue would be 45 feet wide. Proposed Lot 2, an interior lot, would be 40 feet wide. BMC 18.36.020E requires 50 feet of lot width for interior lots and 60 feet of lot width for the corner lot in this location.
10. The property slopes uphill steeply from Knox Avenue westerly towards the alley, and downhill from 21st Street to the south. These slopes exceed 40% and are included in a critical area, landslide hazard designation. There is a minimum 50-foot buffer associated with this critical area. A survey indicates that there is sufficient buildable area on the eastern portion of the proposed Lot 2 outside of the critical area and required buffer.
11. The property contains mature vegetation, including a cottonwood tree and an elm tree. These trees were evaluated by Dean's Tree Service, Inc. The cottonwood tree is a hazard tree but the elm tree is healthy. A tall hedge is located in the right-of-way abutting the property. The hedge exceeds the maximum height allowed for hedges abutting a street. The Public Works Department has determined that the hedge obstructs the required vision clearance area and must be removed or trimmed to an allowable height.
12. Knox Avenue is a residential street with a 60-foot wide right-of-way. 21st Street is an arterial street with an 80-foot wide right-of-way.
13. The proposed lots abut City water and sewer mains. Public stormwater facilities are located in 21st Street and Knox Avenue.
14. The property could be developed with two attached single-family residences without variances. The minimum lot width for attached lots is 35 feet for the corner lot and 30 feet for the interior lot.
15. The existing residence on proposed Lot 1 is nonconforming to front and flanking side yard setbacks. The proposal will not result in greater nonconformity of these yard requirements. The existing residence will remain in the same location. Structures that would encroach on the side yards between the two proposed lots would be removed as part of the proposal.
16. The existing residence has vehicle access from Knox Avenue to the rear of the property. Due to the steep slopes proposed Lot 2 would obtain vehicular access from a new driveway off of 21st Street. A turn-around area in the driveway would be required due to the arterial status of 21st Street.
17. BMC 18.36.020A(4)(b) allows property consisting of multiple lots of record to be divided into two buildable lots provided the total site area is at least 1.75 times the minimum required lot size specified in the zoning table. In this case, the total site area of the property is more than 1.75 times the 5,000 square feet required for a detached single-family lot.
18. BMC 18.48.010 provides criteria for variances from lot width requirements.
19. City staff recommends approval of the proposed short plat with variances from lot width requirements, subject to the conditions listed in the Staff Report.
20. Comments were received from neighbors expressing concerns regarding increased density, removal of vegetation, drainage, vehicle access, parking, traffic and fire safety, and slope stability. Comments relating to drainage indicated that there is a history of drainage issues on and nearby the site and that removal of vegetation and construction of new impervious surfaces will exacerbate the problems. The comments also indicated that construction of a new residence would likely damage the root system of the mature elm tree on the property. Some of the comments indicated that the mix of single-family and multi-family uses in the area would be better maintained if the property remained as one single-family residence with a yard and green space. Concerns were expressed regarding the need for, and displacement of parking that would result from the proposal, the impact on traffic on 21st Street and Knox Avenue, and safety of pedestrians in the immediate vicinity.
21. BMC 15.42 requires stormwater management in accordance with City of Bellingham regulations and the Department of Ecology Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington. Stormwater management is applied at the time of building permit issuance.
22. The subject property could be divided without a variance, however, due to the shape of the lot, the topography, and the location of the existing home constructed over 100 years ago division of the property into lots that satisfy minimum lot width requirements would result in lots that are not desirable, and that may not be functional.
23. Granting the proposed lot width variances results in a better lot design than is possible without the variances. The proposed lots are more practical, allowing development that does not encroach on a critical area and that retains the existing, older home. Construction of attached single-family development would be difficult due to the grade differential between the two lots and it would be less characteristic of the existing neighborhood.
24. Granting the variance will not be unduly detrimental to the public welfare or other properties in the vicinity. The proposal is consistent with the character of the neighborhood. The proposal can be conditioned on retention or replacement of mature vegetation, limitation of vehicle access, and mitigation of drainage concerns.
1. Subject to the conditions set forth below the proposal satisfies the criteria for variances from lot width requirements.
2. The proposal satisfies requirements for short plat approval.
3. The short plat and lot width variances should be approved subject to the conditions set forth below.
4. Any Finding of Fact that should be denominated a Conclusion of Law shall be deemed to be a Conclusion of Law. Any Conclusion of Law that should be denominated a Finding of Fact shall be deemed to be a Finding of Fact.
The proposed short plat is preliminarily approved, and the lot width variances, as proposed, are approved, for the division of the property located at 1100 21st Street into two single-family detached lots, subject to the following conditions:
1. Lot 1 shall have a lot width of 45 feet. The width of Lot 2 shall be the remainder of the frontage of the property on 21st Street.
2. The driveway design and location for Lot 2 is subject to approval of the Public Works Department. No other vehicle access shall be permitted from 21st Street. This restriction shall be noted on the face of the plat. The driveway for Lot 2 off of 21st Street shall include a turn-around area so that vehicles do not back out onto 21st Street from the property.
3. A landscaping plan shall be submitted for review and approval of the Planning and Community Development Department along with a building permit application for Lot 2. The parking turn-around shall be screened within the front yard. The elm tree on Lot 2 shall be retained if reasonably feasible. All reasonable efforts shall be employed during design and construction of the improvements to preserve the elm tree. If necessary construction activities result in unavoidable impacts to the tree that would leave the tree in a hazardous condition, as determined by a certified arborist, the tree may be removed provided two native coniferous or deciduous trees at least six feet in height shall be planted on site or within the 21st Street right-of-way in an approved location.
4. The vegetative hedge abutting or within the 21st Street and Knox Avenue rights-of-way shall be reduced in height, removed and replaced, and/or otherwise modified so as to conform to requirements of the Bellingham Municipal Code and provide adequate vision clearance for vehicles on the public rights-of-way and to avoid obstructions to vehicles attempting to park in authorized locations on the rights-of-way. Modifications to the hedge to conform to Bellingham Municipal Code requirements shall be implemented by the property owner and approved by the Public Works Department prior to final short plat approval, provided that code enforcement officials may order such modifications to be completed at an earlier time. The Public Works Director may, in his discretion, accept financial surety in lieu of actual completion of the required work. Modifications to the hedge shall also be shown on the landscaping plan required above. If all or part of the hedge is removed replacement plantings may be required as part of the landscape plan to satisfy low-impact development requirements and to preserve green space.
5. Development on the property shall incorporate Low Impact Development techniques to the maximum extent practicable based on site conditions, in accordance with the Department of Ecology's Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington in effect at the time of development.
6. Mitigation for stormwater management necessary to support the project shall be provided based on an engineered stormwater site plan that addresses mitigation requirements of BMC 15.42 and the Department of Ecology's Stormwater Management Manual for Western Washington, as amended. Mitigation may not be required at this time if it is demonstrated that the total of new or replaced impervious surfaces will not exceed 5,000 square feet. Notation on the face of the plat that limits the square footage of impervious surface for future development and redevelopment of property within the short plat is required. Development on the property shall comply with requirements of BMC 15.42.
7. All structures that cross over the proposed interior property line between Lots 1 and 2, including accessory buildings, decks, stairs and walls, shall be removed or modified prior to final short plat approval to meet Bellingham Municipal Code requirements. Structures other than accessory buildings may be permitted to remain if approved easements and maintenance agreements are established with the plat and they are the type of structures that are permitted by the Bellingham Municipal Code to be located within a side yard.
8. Five copies of the plat (checkprints) prepared by a licensed surveyor, a plat certificate, and plat closure sheet must be submitted to the Planning and Community Development Department for review and approval prior to submittal of mylars.
9. A licensed land surveyor must prepare and submit two signed mylar copies of the plat based on a record of survey and City staff's review of the checkprints. At a minimum, the signature of any person having a vested right in the subject property shall be on the mylar document.
10. A per lot filing fee, as established by ordinance, must be paid to the City prior to final short plat approval. The current established fee is $106.00 per lot, requiring a total payment of $212.00. The filing of the mylars will change the legal description of the property to Lots 1 and 2, R.T. Hammond Short Plat.
11. The City may impose additional conditions if it is found that sufficient information was not presented with the application and/or if necessary to comply with Bellingham Municipal Code.
12. The short subdivision application and preliminary approval will expire three years from the date of approval unless a final plat is recorded at the Whatcom County Auditor's Office.
13. The division and development of the property shall comply with all other applicable regulations of the Bellingham Municipal Code, except as variances are granted.
14. The following note shall be placed on the face of the plat:
Critical Areas Ordinance Note: This project has been reviewed by the City of Bellingham for conformance with BMC 16.55. As a condition of project approval a survey of geologically hazardous areas was completed by licensed land surveyor Ronald T. Jepson on January 10, 2013. The survey indicates the presence of geologically hazardous areas within portions of Lots 1 and 2. Future development within Lots 1 and 2 may be subject to additional critical areas review and approval.
15. A condition shall be placed on the face of the plat stating that all development occurring on the lots shall comply with this decision, and as may be amended.

ENTERED this 22nd day of March 2013.
Bellingham Hearing Examiner
Dawn Sturwold