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Public hearing tonight on proposed changes to Tacoma’s Comp Plan and Land Use code

Post by Lewis Kamb / The News Tribune on May 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
May 25, 2010 4:35 pm

Tonight’s Tacoma City Council meeting will include a public hearing on proposed amendments to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Regulatory Code — essentially the city’s guiding policies for development planning and land use priorities to manage future growth.

At today’s council study session, Donna Stenger of the City’s Community and Economic Development Department, provided members with a detailed presentation of the proposed changes.  Among other items, they include adopting an “Urban Forest Policy Element” and a “Mobility Master Plan,” and meeting “Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Regulations.”

The urban forestry proposal would add a chapter to the Comp Plan that recognizes and promotes urban forestry programs for such benefits as clean air, water quality and other environmental and quality of life improvements.

The ultimate goal seeks to achieve “30 by 30″ — 30 percent tree canopy coverage in the city by 2030. (The latest data, from US Forest Service satellite photos taken in 2001, put the city’s canopy coverage at 12.9 percent, said Raime Pierce, the city’s uban forester). Stenger said that 30 by 30 is an ambitious goal — done intentionally so. It would require buy in and partnership from private property owners, she said.

The Master Mobility Plan — the amendment that Stenger said has drawn the most attention and input from the public — seeks to add a planning and policy guidance to the Comp Plan to “achieve a safe, comfortable and desireable pedestrian, bicycle and transit environment throughout Tacoma,” according to the public hearing notice. The plan seeks to upgrade existing pedestrian and bike trails, install new ones, and overall, make them connect and flow together more safely and efficiently with existing trails and roadways to provide citizens with better car-less transportation strategies.

The plan includes a host of short, medium and long term improvements and goals — from new “bicycle boulevards” and cycle tracks to new and improved sidewalks and intersections — that in all would cost an estimated $38.5 million (in 2010 dollars) to implement over a decade. Among other things, the ultimate goal is to build 123 miles of bike lanes and boulevards, develop 42 miles of trails and install 146 blocks of sidewalks by 2020.

The proposed Electric Vehicle Infrastructure policy addition to the comp plan responds to a state requirement for cities along Interstate 5 to better accommodate and expand support for alternative fuel vehicles in Washington by building supportive infrastructure in commercial and industrial zones. This involves building and enhancing electric car recharging centers and battery exchange stations.

(After the presentation, Councilman Marty Campbell encouraged looking at the idea of allowing golf carts to have more access on city routes. He hailed golf carts’ efficiency and noted other cities in Washington and beyond are more golf cart-friendly).

Other proposed amendments include several changes to the South Tacoma Mixed Use Center and a host of clarifications, refinements and corrections discovered in the Comp Plan and Land Use Reg code.

Tonight’s public hearing is the latest step in the process to adopt proposed ordinances to officially implement the changes into the two planning documents, with a final resolution scheduled to go before the City Council on June 15. Under the state’s Growth Management Act, amendments to the comp plan are limited to occur one time per year. This year’s deadline is June 30, Stenger said.

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