Letter to Planning Commission Members

Leavenworth’s new Housing Action Plan contains a recommendation for high-density multi-family housing in our city’s residential areas. Our neighbors and friends definitely do question whether this level of density is right for our small residential city. When we discuss it, their reaction is initial shock followed by immediate opposition.

The Planning Commission’s approval of the Plan, described as “just a recommendation”, is happening in this intense market where Leavenworth land and properties are surging in value. Rezoning land has an immediate economic impact. An up-zone to higher density dramatically increases the value of that land, often doubling its value or more. In considering up-zoning for Leavenworth properties from single-family to duplex, triplex and 4-plex, the land immediately becomes more valuable than the structure(s) on it.

Developers love this change, because it promises large returns on new developments as they densify their properties with new structures. Why wouldn’t a savvy developer start tearing down older single-family homes and start building triplexes?. These can be rented out monthly as condos to vacationers/tourists for far more money than what a single family rental produces.

This could cause our older housing stock to rapidly disappear! There seems to be no zoning regulation currently or proposed that would prevent this total restructuring of our town.

For us who live here, this would cause irreparable harm, since the very houses we live in would be seen as a liability. Suddenly folks realize the possibility of building to the highest density according to new zoning codes. And let’s face it, there are few opportunities to make money in a small town.

Many folks would certainly “invest” in this new, much higher land value. Owners would start to stack their property with new development, duplexes, triplexes or 4-plexes as close to the property lines as possible. And once they do that and we start to see how that radically changes our relaxed, comfortable neighborhoods, we as a City cannot just suddenly reverse the trend towards high-density housing.

So we ask the Planning Commission to explain their approval of this part of the Plan when it has definite negative impacts on our quiet residential areas.

Have you considered those outcomes in our neighborhoods? For example, replacing a single-family home with multi-family units would greatly increase traffic flow centered on that property. Daily car-trips for each unit average around 5 trips. So for a four-plex, there could be 20 separate car-trips to/from that one property each day.

Adding these new high-density developments along one of our quiet streets, the difference would be quite noticeable. As planners, you know how the presence of traffic decreases the sense of connection, community, safety and walk-ability which we all value.

Many new units would be rented out to different visitors each month so the neighborliness of our neighborhoods would be virtually destroyed. Traffic and noise would drastically increase while safety for children and pets would decrease dramatically as they face many more vehicles each day.

We know that, as planners serving on the Planning Commission, you want our lovely town to retain its safe and quiet environment. So please explain your rationale for supporting the Plan that would so dramatically change our neighborhoods? Why would you recommend the possibility of rezoning and converting single-family residential properties into high-density multi-units? We ask that you let us know your specific reasons. And we look forward to your reply in the Leavenworth Echo – this is definitely a public discussion worth having!

Ann Crosby



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