City Council takes a stance on permitted business uses in downtown Woodinville

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, Contributing Writer

City MapMap courtesy of City of Woodinville To view this map online, visit City Council is closer to deciding on development standards that will determine whether — and under what conditions — gas stations, construction and trade, bulk retail, shooting ranges and several other categories of businesses will be allowed in downtown Woodinville.

The City Council must pass Ordinance 560, which details which businesses and activities are permitted in the General Business and Central Business zones, by the June 18 meeting, since a moratorium on many of the uses will expire in July.

If an already existing business becomes nonconforming under the new standards, it may continue to operate and may be sold to a new owner, but it may not increase the degree of its nonconformity through modifications, expansions or repairs, said Erin Martindale, senior planner for the Development Services Department. For example, staff found five auto repair businesses that would become nonconforming under the new ordinance.

At its June 4 meeting, the council made decisions about several uses and continued to discuss others.

Gas Stations

The council deferred voting on the conditions for gasoline service stations until city staff revise that part of the ordinance. Martindale showed examples of existing gas stations near Woodinville that would meet the new requirements, which include blocking the pumps from view from the street with a screen, using wood or natural-appearing materials in the canopy over the pumps, and positioning the pumps behind or to the side of the store. Gateway Gas & Deli in Snoqualmie has a wood canopy, and a Fred Meyer gas station in Lynnwood has a trellis screening the pumps from the road.

Dan Gowen, who represents Jackson’s at the Shell Station on 175th Street in Woodinville, said those examples didn’t apply to typical gas stations. The Snoqualmie gas station is on tribal territory, so the owners don’t have to pay taxes and can afford to build the canopy out of more expensive materials.

"The margins on gas stations are very narrow [on gas stations] that are out on the streets," Gowen said. "They’re very huge at a casino."

The Lynnwood gas station was designed by Barghausen, the engineering company Gowen works for. He said the screen only worked because the gas station is affiliated with a grocery store and draws customers from the grocery store parking lot. He suggested that a lower screen that only blocks cars’ headlights would be better.

The City Council was ambivalent about where gas stations should be allowed and what design standards should be required for them. The council members discussed how gas stations could meet the requirements in a way that wasn’t too restrictive.

Several council members disagreed with the idea of requiring a screen or locating pumps in the back or at the side of the store, since this would make it harder for customers to see how busy the station is and make it harder for law enforcement to see what is happening.

"I don’t think having them at the rear of the building is a good idea, and I’m not sure the side is such a good idea unless it’s a major roadway on the side," Councilmember Scott Hageman said. "Up front, where they’re visible for everybody, I think makes the most sense in terms of usability for the customers as well as the merchant, as well as safety."

Construction and Trade

The council voted to prohibit construction and trade in the GB and CBD.

Kay Cogan spoke for landowners along Little Bear Creek, who want to maintain construction and trade, she said. From 2003 to 2008, 18 landowners came together and worked with the city to reach a solution that would allow them to continue trade, but "now, less than five years later, the same battle has been renewed," Cogan said.

To legally remove construction and trade as a permitted use, she said, Woodinville must provide proof that eliminating that use is in the city’s best long-term interest, which it hasn’t done yet.

Councilmember Les Rubstello had a different perspective. Although he cited the example of Stockton, Calif., which eliminated blue-collar jobs in the hopes of attracting high-tech companies but instead faced financial hardship, he doesn’t think that will happen in Woodinville.

"I recognize the benefit those [construction and trade] companies have been to our city for years and years, when we were unincorporated King County and they moved in there, but now we are a city, this is our downtown," he said. "It’s an evolution that I believe is proper and not as blindsided as Stockton. It’s time to slowly move them out."

Bulk Retail

The council voted 4-3 to allow bulk retail in both districts, with certain design standards in the CBD.

Boundy-Sanders said bulk retailers in the CBD would drive local businesses out of business, but Councilmember Paulette Bauman said she was comfortable with the current zoning regulations.

Shooting Ranges

The council voted to not allow shooting ranges in the GB or CBD, and to allow them in the industrial zone with conditions designed to protect safety. Several council members said they wanted to add regulations that would require shooting ranges to reduce noise.

"People come to me with concerns about the noise of the recycling facility, and I don’t want to impose more burdens on them," Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders said.

Other Decisions

The council voted to allow conference centers, but to prohibit self-service storage businesses, machinery and equipment rentals and drive-in theaters in both zones.

It voted to allow marinas as a conditional use in the GB and CBD, but only for non-motorized craft or craft with engines not over five horsepower.

It voted to allow funeral homes, but not crematories, in the GB, and to allow both in the industrial zone. It voted to allow golf driving ranges in both zones, with the condition that the driving range must be indoors and must take up no more than 49 percent of the business’s floor space.The City Council decided on the wording for these uses in Ordinance 560, but the changes will not go into effect until the council passes the ordinance.

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