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Montesano City Council approves new downtown design standards

On a 4 to 2 vote, the Montesano City Council approved new design standards Tuesday night that could reshape the way Montesano’s city core could look like.

The standards have been under great scrutiny since first introduced earlier this year and at least one public comment period over the summer drew about 135 people in attendance with multiple speakers.

The original plan would have forced owners of existing buildings who make improvements valued at 60 percent of the current assessed value of their property to obey the proposed new standards. But the Planning Commission changed it to concentrate mainly on new buildings that would be built in city limits, not on renovations of current buildings.

The plan still divides the city into specific zones, each with different characteristics. The zones include the Civic District, the Residential Mixed-Use District, the Main Street District, the Town Square, the Arts & Entertainment District and the Gateway District.

Mayor Ken Estes cautioned the council that if they were to adopt the plan, it could invite legal challenges from developers and hinder future councils from making changes to the code since the standards consist mainly of a visual image, instead of actual code language that could more easily be adopted.

“I don’t think the concerns you’re expressing are realistic,” countered Councilman Ken Walkington. Walkington added later that the standards make absolute sense, especially by not allowing “big, flashing bordello signs in downtown.”

Councilman Chris Hutchings said that the city already has “an existing look.”

“Why are we defining a look?” he mused. “I think this will deter business.”

“I agree with safety codes, but don’t believe we should tell people how to build,” agreed Councilwoman Pam McElliott.

Hutchings and McElliott were the only ones to vote against the proposal. Walkington was joined by Councilmembers Rich Klinger, Doug Streeter and Pat Herrington in approving the standards.

Councilman Lyle Powell was absent from the meeting.

Walkington noted that other cities around the state are looking to see what Montesano has done with its plan. The Aberdeen Planning Commission, for instance, was looking to see if it could pass council muster.