A plan for the future development on land at the western end of Carty Road is back in action after COVID-19 pandemic-related delays postponed work.
During its March 10 meeting, the Ridgefield City Council heard from Community Development Director Claire Lust about the Carty Road Subarea Plan. The plan covers about 270 acres to the east of South Hillhurst Road with the majority of the property located north of Carty Road, but it also features an area at its eastern end to the south of that road.
Several property owners in the area applied for annexation into city limits in 2019. At that time, the council directed city staff to put the annexation on hold as they developed a subarea plan for the proposed annexation.
Lust said the reason for the annexation pause was because the city needed to create a shared vision and development standards for the area. The subarea plan will inform the future of properties included in the planning area if landowners decide to annex themselves into the city through a piecemeal approach as opposed to the broad annexation that was initially proposed.
The process informing the plan included 11 stakeholder interviews, two project advisory committee meetings and a community open house. Through the process, the stakeholders developed a vision statement, which emphasizes the area’s rural identity in an area that is experiencing rapid growth.
The plan identifies potential land use designations, roadways and other amenities that would be brought to the area. Stakeholders also said they want to protect existing land uses and conserve open space while improving emergency vehicle access.
Although the plan was ready to go before the city’s planning commission, and subsequently the council in June 2020, the virtual format of council meetings during the pandemic led to a postponement of the presentation, according to a staff summary.
Through the outreach process, city staff determined area residents wanted road improvements along Northwest 24th Avenue, as well as intersection improvements at Carty Road’s connections to Hillhurst Road, Northwest 24th Avenue and at the entrance to Ridgefield High School at Royle Road leading into the subarea. The “preferred alternative,” as it’s called in the plan, would also include a separate multimodal path along Carty Road and potential trail corridors through land deemed critical areas such as wetlands and natural habitats. About half of the area in the plan is identified as critical areas.
Although the concepts proposed featured a range of densities in the lower end of what is allowable under the state Growth Management Act, stakeholders’ preferred alternative kept it at the lowest possible of four dwelling units per acre. Lust noted the current designations for the land as it stands in the county would actually lead to a higher density upon a full buildout than if it were to all be annexed into Ridgefield based on the preferred alternative. In that scenario, the area would have 464 housing units, compared to 690 under the current zoning.
Stakeholders’ design guidelines included landscape buffers between new and existing uses, preservation of the current topography, encouragement of community uses like a historical museum or places for gatherings, and generally maintaining the rural character of the area.
In a survey distributed to property owners in the area, more than 70% of respondents valued rural character of the area as a top priority. More than 60% of property owners who responded didn’t want any improvements to the area at all.
“Some folks know that they would love to eventually annex their land to be developed. Some folks absolutely just want it to stay as-is for as long as they’re living there,” Lust said.
Lust said the next steps for the plan include reconvening the stakeholder group while opening up feedback to new residents in the area. She noted that if the plan is eventually approved by the council, it would not affect any current landowners unless they decided to come into the city limits.
“The plan itself is not an annexation. The plan is a shared vision for the community,” Lust said. She said the property owners who initiated the annexation would be able to restart the process with any potential direction from the plan in place. She said any parcel wanting to be annexed would have to be adjacent to city limits or be part of an annexation block under state law.
Ridgefield Mayor Jennifer Lindsay noted the plan was initiated as a response to those who wanted to join the city on their own volition.
“This process didn’t start because the council wanted to create a subarea,” Lindsay said. “It started because of individuals who wanted to annex into the city.”
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