Thursday, June 13, 2024

Planning Commission addresses condominium concerns in special meeting

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LEAVENWORTH – Members of the public met with the Planning Commission in a special meeting to address questions and concerns regarding the condominiums in residential zoning on May 22.

The meeting focused on the conversion of residential dwellings into condominiums, such as duplexes and accessory dwelling units (ADU). According to Community Development Director Lilith Vespier, the conversion would not change the look, density, or function of the buildings, and the condominium would be subject to the same code enforcement as other properties.

However, some members in attendance expressed concern that allowing condominiums in single-family zoning would affect the feel of the neighborhood.

“The community, the people that live here, in this core residential area, are almost unanimously against this. They don't want condos in the residential areas. We want houses, we want homes,” said Planning Commissioner Brian Praye.

Condominiums are managed and maintained by an Owner’s Association and often a Board, with defined roles and responsibilities outlined by state law. The city would require a Binding Site Plan to ensure continued compliance with building permits, utility services, easements, parking, and review maintenance of common areas.

Upper Valley MEND Executive Director Kaylin Bettinger attended the meeting to express support for the idea, which would allow MEND to sell the individual units of a duplex project as affordable units. Currently, MEND would only be allowed to rent individual units due to its zoning.

“For us, this is affordable housing across the board, whether we do it as rentals or as homeownership,” said Bettinger.

However, those opposed to the changes shared concerns that the changes would incentivize ADU and duplex owners to convert their properties into condominium units and sell, possibly displacing renters and limiting affordable rental options.

“If something new is being built, that isn't housing anyone, I agree that those might be really good opportunities for someone to buy…The displacement of existing renters is a serious concern, because they may not be able to find another place that's, you know, that has rent at same level,” said Kirvil Skinnarland, President of Residents Coalition of Chelan County.

This subject is on the 2024 Planning Commission Docket as an option for creating more affordable homeownership options. It was heightened as a priority after an application was filed by a developer to make the amendments to the municipal code, which would address recent changes in state legislation. The changes would also address HB 1337, which will require Leavenworth to allow as many as two ADUs on urban growth area lots that meet requirements and the sale of ADUs as condominiums by Dec. 31, 2026.

The Planning Commission will meet again for its regular meeting on June 5 at 7 p.m. in City Hall.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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