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Posted on: September 9, 2019

City Addresses Perception That Council Pushes for Growth in North Bend

The City of North Bend wishes to address the perception of some North Bend residents that City Council has been pushing for growth.  This simply is not the case.  Where growth occurs is largely dictated by market forces.  The City cannot simply stop development or limit a property owner’s decision to sell their property to a third-party for development.  It cannot be disputed that the Puget Sound region as a whole has been experiencing monumental growth, and it is only logical that North Bend would similarly receive a share of that growth.

However, the City does have tools to manage the types and speed of development. In fact, City Council has taken many such measures over the years to shape the type of development within the city.  For example, Council has prohibited residential growth in commercial zones, reduced density, and taken several measures to prioritize commercial development. Specifically, the North Bend Council has taken the following actions in response to rapid development:

- Reduced density within the low density residential single-family zone from an average of 6 dwelling units per acre a number of years ago to less than four dwelling units per acre currently. The effect of this zoning change has been to reduce the number of new homes being built in the city.

- Adopted a new constrained low-density residential zone between the low-density, single-family zones and the more rural areas outside of the city’s Urban Growth Area (UGA) to preserve open spaces and protect environmentally sensitive areas. This zone only allows two houses per acre.  This area previously could have been developed at 4 houses per acre.

- Amended the Neighborhood Business Zone to prohibit single-family homes and stand-alone multifamily developments (mixed use allowed). Due to the enormous demand for housing in the King County area, the Council was justifiably concerned that this business zone would turn into housing developments. This change stopped a number of potential single-family plats from vesting and moving forward.

Council has also acted decisively on multiple occasions to preserve land from being developed by purchasing it and creating parks and open space for the enjoyment of the community. As cities grow and urbanize, preservation of open space is of critical importance in maintaining a sense of the historic landscape and way of life in North Bend. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, the typical park and recreation agency should provide 10.1 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents. By these standards, with North Bend’s population of 6,925, the recommended park acreage should be just over 70 acres. North Bend boasts well over this at over 600 acres of open space and trails.  

-For example, Meadowbrook Farm contains over 460 acres of open prairie (204 of which are in City limits) and the new Tennant Trailhead Park is 32 acres. Tollgate Farm is 410 acres (215 of which are in City limits).

-Also, Council recently purchased the Cascade Golf Course in partnership with Si View Metropolitan Park, preserving approximately 30 acres which could have been developed as a new single-family residential development. The Cascade Golf Course site may also provide a secondary source of mitigation water for the City. The City also saved an additional 5 acres from development adjacent to EJ Roberts Park.

Further, the City has taken several measures to encourage commercial growth, which is crucial to the City’s financial health as the majority of the City’s general fund revenue is funded by business taxes. Business growth generally has a lesser impact on infrastructure such as traffic, sewer, and water. In order to ensure that North Bend does not become a bedroom community without sufficient supporting services, City Council adopted a resolution preserving the gross majority of remaining sewer capacity for business or commercial growth. This action ensures a balanced mix of land uses within the City and the economic vibrancy of the City.

Council has also used the tools of moratorium in response to this growth in the past to ensure that growth is consistent with the City’s vision and Comprehensive Plan. However, moratoriums are exceptional tools that cities can only use with good reason.  Additionally, moratoriums must be limited in time only to allow cities to remedy the situation giving rise to the moratorium. Cities may not use moratoriums to stop growth indefinitely.

Even if the City were to have reason to adopt a moratorium today, it would not impact the multiple years’ worth of vested development. Citizens would still see construction and growth despite a moratorium. Prior to approving the projects in the pipeline, the City ensured that it had water capacity, sewer capacity, and mitigation water adequate to accommodate these approved projects. 

Enforcing a moratorium on new development comes with many legal ramifications. While Council and City administration understand the desire to maintain the status quo of our beautiful community, the City cannot subject itself to the financial implications of potential litigation by attempting to stop all future development for an unlimited time.

City Council is committed to preserving the unique feel of the City of North Bend while respecting property rights. Council has struck a balance between respecting private property rights while simultaneously using its tools of zoning and purchasing an exceptional amount of property to be preserved as open space and parks. This is all in the spirit of managing growth, preserving our natural resources, retaining the City’s small-town character as development occurs, and ensuring continued quality of life for our residents.

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