Mount Vernon subarea plan sees progress

February 28, 2018 GMT

MOUNT VERNON — A draft zoning plan that could open an area of Mount Vernon to new high-density development is scheduled to be completed and in front of the City Council in April.

The South Kincaid subarea plan, with focuses on a area between Kincaid Street and Section Street from Interstate 5 west to South First Street, aims to make the region more accessible to pedestrians, housing and business.

“(The plan) is all about, ’What do we want this place to look like in 20 years?” said Rebecca Lowell, senior planner with the city.

The plan would reclassify much of the designated area into a new zone that would allow commercial uses as well as remove density limits on housing, Lowell said.

Consultants from Makers, a Seattle-based architecture and planning firm, have been working on the plan since late 2016, and Lowell said the goal is to have a final draft completed and passed by the City Council by late April.

Several properties in the area are currently zoned only for residential or industrial uses, but under the new zone there will be a greater breadth of choices for properties.

Lowell cited pending redevelopment of the former Alf Christianson Seed Co. site as an example of what would be possible under the proposed plan.

Visconsi Cos., a property developer and manager based in Ohio, is considering purchasing the property. The company is interested in using the zoning change to build a campus with commercial space and several new apartment complexes, totaling between 240 and 300 new housing units.

“It’ll be a game-changer,” Lowell said, adding the entire city’s average annual housing production is about 150 units, which includes both single and multifamily projects.

Lowell said the plan aims to make walking through the subarea more enjoyable by adding or upgrading walking paths and helping create art and architecture.

Kincaid Street will be classified as a gateway to the city. Lowell said the city wants to provide incentives for public art and attractive storefronts in an effort to entice people to walk rather than drive.

The City Council and the planning commission are planning for a vote in late April on design standards for downtown buildings, Lowell said.

“We don’t want to be Leavenworth,” she said. “But we want to make sure the character of the buildings fit.”

Lowell said the planning commission is currently considering rules on elements such as signage, building materials and window placement in order to help buildings in the historic downtown feel consistent.