Monte’s downtown standards continue uphill battle

Proposed standards have supporters, opponents.

Downtown development standards continue to get a divided response from the City of Montesano.

While Mayor Vini Samuel supports development standards brought forward by the city’s planning commission, Councilman Dan Wood and members of the public remain opposed to the standards as they’re written.

Former mayor Ken Estes has stated his opposition to the standards several times in the past, including while he was mayor. A public hearing was held for proposed standards during the Nov. 28 city council meeting, and Estes reiterated his opposition.

Estes said the downtown development standards take decision making powers away from the city council (later in the meeting, the city corrected that statement noting that appeals would come before the council). Estes gave five reasons for his opposition: it stifles individuality, undue restrictions, redundancy of law, it stifles economic development and it discriminates against new builders.

Councilman Wood brought up several issues as well, including franchise mandated sign changes, and business properties without buildings that may want to put up signs. Wood specifically referenced Whitney’s Chevrolet and the gravel lot to the west of the main show lot.

“I don’t want to risk a nearly-100-year-old business deciding ‘There’s extra process involved so screw it we’re going to leave the City of Montesano,’” Wood said. “It is a philosophical issue for me — I do not want to create any additional process to give anybody any cause to consider that Montesano is a bad place to do business.”

If a franchise business is told to update its sign, Wood said he worries the language of the development standards would make those updates a little more cumbersome.

Ken Albert of the city’s planning commission said the standards were not created to inhibit any businesses.

“The intent of this wasn’t to make us something else. We’re not trying to be a Leavenworth. We’re not trying to do any of that,” Albert said. “We’re just trying to be able to have some controls and make it very clear when someone’s coming in to develop that there’s a standard, and what the standard is.”

Mayor Samuel noted the language about signs was meant to address large, ostentatious signs. In asking businesses to petition the city to make sign changes, the city would have more control over what goes up and what sort of impression the businesses make.

“To me, any business that thinks they can put up a big billboard with flashing lights and not go through some sort of basic process, perhaps that’s on them and not on us,” Samuel said. “A little bit of process is not an infringement of an owner’s right to have a piece of property.”

The downtown development plan has been proposed for several years. Each time the plan comes before the council, it has been returned to the planning commission for revision to address one issue or another. Mayor Samuel on Nov. 28 suggested the time for revisions has come to an end.

“We can’t provide for every eventuality,” Samuel said. “We can come back at the next meeting and I’m pretty sure we can think of three or four more things. It’s not that you’re wrong on any of them – it is that it is almost impossible to legislate out every single possible scenario.”