Public workshop to look at commercial design standards


Rodika Tollefson, KP News

There may not be a clear consensus among the Key Peninsula Community Planning Board members whether the Key Peninsula needs design standards for new commercial buildings—but they are definitely interested in hearing the options. That was the conclusion at which the board arrived at the last meeting, which means the county will pay an architect firm to facilitate a six-hour “design charette” meeting to get public input.

Two representatives from the Tacoma-based firm, BCRA, were present at the Nov. 15 meeting to give some preliminary ideas on how an area can become more attractive to shoppers and tourists without requiring major changes or “going to the extreme.”

“Growth will occur, and it will occur whether you plan for it or not… You can plan for it and provide design criteria,” said Gareth Roe, planning director for BCRA, whose projects include Gig Harbor’s YMCA and the new MultiCare medical facility.

As part of the project, BCRA will create an “existing and desired conditions” report outlining existing conditions at the Key Peninsula’s seven commercial “centers,” along with design alternatives including a feasibility analysis showing associated implementation costs. The “desired conditions” report will be based on the input received during the design charette.

Several business owners in the audience as well as some board members expressed concerns about creating requirements that would be cost-prohibitive for small businesses.

Lynn Marshall of Blondie’s restaurant expressed a common sentiment, saying modest enhancements such as signage and landscaping should be done to improve a commercial area such as Key Center, where Blondie’s is located. “This is not Bellevue, it’s Key Center,” he said. “We need to do something that’s attainable financially… without becoming a Bellevue.”

BCRA Principal Stewart Young said the requirements do not have to be overly restrictive in order to help create a sense of place and an identity.

“Sprawl, or uncontrolled growth, is expensive,” he said. “Individual owners will end up paying for it in the long run.”

Mike Krueger, a Pierce County planner who has been overseeing the community planning process, said grants could be sought for community enhancements, especially once a community plan shows desired improvements. Responding to several concerns regarding parking and restrooms in Key Center, he also suggested that the planning board identify a property for county acquisition where such facilities could be provided in the future.

The design charette will take place on Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Key Peninsula Civic Center in Vaughn, with lunch provided. The planning board will hold its regular session on Dec. 6 at 7 at the Key Center Library, at which time the sign code draft language will be discussed.