ANACORTES — The Anacortes City Council voted unanimously Monday night to enact a six-month moratorium on building permit applications that propose using a bonus height provision to build an extra 10 feet.
The moratorium affects the area that is zoned residential high-density between Commercial and M avenues and 10th and 29th streets.
Council members Ryan Walters and Brad Adams suggested the moratorium last week after residents raised concerns about a Seattle developer’s proposed five-story 25-unit apartment building at O Avenue and 18th Street.
The height limit in the zone is 40 feet. However, a new bonus height provision included in recently revised development code allows buildings up to 50 feet if at least 25% of the units are 600 square feet or less, or are affordable to those making 50% or less of area median income.
The developer previously told the Skagit Valley Herald that building smaller units would lower the cost of rent.
At multiple City Council meetings and at a packed community meeting last week at the Anacortes Senior Center, residents questioned the size and scale of the proposed building, the increased traffic to the area, the lack of parking and that there was no guarantee the apartments would be affordable.
“It’s such a major change in the character of the area,” Mike Pearl, who lives one block away from the proposed building, told council members Monday.
City Attorney Darcy Swetnam said the moratorium will affect future building permit applications, and not the proposed building at O and 18th. She said the project is vested, meaning the city must consider it under the code in place at the time the developer applied for permits.
Councilman Brad Adams said the moratorium gives the city a chance to revisit the bonus height provision and whether to keep it or change it.
The city must now hold a public hearing on the moratorium within 60 days.
Linda Harris, who also lives nearby, said she believes the building proposed at O and 18th would be inappropriate in the neighborhood, and that there are better ways to address affordable housing.
“If I stand in my yard, I can point to additional dwelling units that contribute to affordable housing — duplexes and other properties,” she said.
Cynthia Richardson, a former Anacortes city councilwoman, said the city’s new code encourages smaller units — such as apartments and accessory dwelling units — that are needed for those of all income levels.
“We didn’t really anticipate that it could be that big (of a building),” she said.
Council members were split on whether the moratorium should apply to the entire high-density residential zone, or just to the area west of O Avenue, as was originally proposed in the moratorium. Mayor Laurie Gere cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of including the entire zone in the moratorium.
The moratorium will not affect project applications in other areas zoned high-density residential, or in the commercial zone or the Central Business District, where the bonus height incentive is also an option.