City Hall News: West Slope conservation district, charter review public hearing and Foss Waterway children’s park update

Tacoma residents will have plenty of opportunities next week to learn more about what’s happening in city government.

On Monday, Tacoma City Council’s Neighborhoods and Housing Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. to discuss a proposal to create a conservation district in Tacoma’s West Slope neighborhood, as well as changes to Tacoma’s noise enforcement code.

On Tuesday, Tacoma City Council will hold its regular weekly study session at noon to discuss budget drivers for Tacoma Public Utilities, as well as amendments to Tacoma’s comprehensive plan and land use regulatory code. Also on Tuesday, Tacoma City Council will hold its committee of the whole meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss proposed amendments to Tacoma’s charter. Finally on Tuesday, Tacoma City Council will hold its regular weekly meeting at 5 p.m. to vote on a range of issues.

On Wednesday, Tacoma City Council’s Government Performance and Finance Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. to discuss a range of issues.

Here is a look ahead at some notable meetings, events, and issues on deck next week at Tacoma City Hall.

WEST SLOPE NEIGHBORHOOD CONSERVATION DISTRICT

A group of West Slope residents is hoping a special ‘conservation district’ designation will preserve the character of its neighborhood.

Seven years ago, the City of Tacoma hired a consultant to complete a feasibility study to determine whether it was appropriate to designate the West Slope neighborhood a historic district. The consultant—citing the neighborhood’s lack of historic integrity and lack of consensus among residents—recommended not pursuing the designation. Instead, a recommendation was made to pursue a special conservation district designation, which typically serves as a buffer zone around a historic district. It can also protect a neighborhood from what some might view to be unnecessary demolition, inappropriate new construction, or inappropriate additions.

When the consultant made its recommendations, the City’s comprehensive plan and regulatory code did not allow for stand-alone conservation districts that didn’t also serve as buffer zones around historic districts. That changed three years ago when the code was revised to allow for stand-alone conservation districts.

Late last year, the West Slope Neighborhood Coalition submitted a proposal to City Hall requesting the special conservation district designation.

Nearly 300 homes—constructed mostly between the 1940s and the 1960s, and consisting largely of low-rise, mid-century modern, two-story homes with sweeping views of Tacoma Narrows—would be included in the proposed conservation district.

“In order to preserve the neighborhood’s views and character, the original developer established covenants placing restrictions on the design and construction of homes within the plats,” wrote Peter Huffman, Interim Planning and Development Services Department Director at the City of Tacoma, in a recent memo to Tacoma City Manager T. C. Broadnax. “The [West Slope Neighborhood Coalition] has faced difficulty enforcing or amending the covenant restrictions, resulting in tear-downs, out-of-scale development, and view disputes. Consequently, they are seeking a land-use, regulatory-based approach to resolve these issues.”

Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and Planning Commission will spend the next year reviewing the proposal before it is expected to reach Tacoma City Council next summer for final review and approval.

Tacoma City Council’s Neighborhoods and Housing Committee will be briefed on the issue during a meeting on Mon., June 2, at 4:30 p.m., at Tacoma City Hall, 747 Market St., Room 248, in downtown Tacoma. Copies of the agenda and meeting materials are available online here.

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CHARTER REVIEW PUBLIC HEARING

Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote next week on a resolution that would set a public hearing date for proposed amendments to Tacoma’s charter, which was adopted in 1953 and serves as Tacoma’s constitution. Comprehensive reviews are completed at least once every 10 years, allowing Tacoma voters to approve or reject any recommended changes.

In December, Tacoma City Council created a 15-member charter review committee to conduct a comprehensive review and make recommendations for changes that would improve efficiencies and operations at Tacoma City Hall. Beginning in January, the committee and its five subcommittees held nearly 60 meetings before making its final recommendations last month. Tacoma City Council plans to review those recommendations during a series of special meetings this month, including one on Tues., June 17, and another on Tues., June 24.

On Tues., June 3, at 5 p.m., at the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., First Floor, in downtown Tacoma, Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would establish Tues., June 10, at approximately 5:30 p.m., as the date for a public hearing on the charter review committee’s proposed recommendations for changes. More information is available online here and here and here.

UPDATE: FOSS WATERWAY CHILDREN’S PARK

Following up on an item first reported in the Tacoma Daily Index earlier this month, Tacoma City Council is expected to vote next week to allow City staff to submit an application to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office for a $60,000 grant that would help pay for a children’s play area at a park near South 21st Street and Dock Street, along Thea Foss Waterway.

According to City staff, the funding request would be matched by The Henry Group, a private developer currently constructing a 161-unit, $32 million apartment building nearby. Although the park is City-owned, no capital, maintenance, or other City expenditures are being asked for the project. The Henry Group is providing half the cost of the project and the Foss Waterway Development Authority is contributing additional funds. There is no City match for the grant request.

Tacoma City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution to authorize submitting the grant application during its meeting on Tues., June 3, at 5 p.m., at the Tacoma Municipal Building, 747 Market St., First Floor, in downtown Tacoma.

More information is available online here and here and here.

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