Chapter 17.23
VARIANCES AND MINOR EXCEPTIONS

17.23.010 Purpose

The purpose of a variance or minor exception shall be to ensure that no property, because of special circumstances specifically related to its size, shape, topography, location, or surroundings, shall be deprived of privileges commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same vicinity and zone district.

17.23.020 General Provisions

A.    In no case shall a variance or minor exception be granted to permit a use other than a use permitted or conditionally permitted in the zone district applicable to the property.

B.    Any variance or minor exception granted shall be subject to such conditions as will assure that the adjustment thereby authorized shall not constitute a grant of special privileges inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity and district in which such property is situated.

17.23.030 Reviewing Authority

A.    The reviewing authority may grant minor exceptions and variances from any property development standard (including setbacks and heights) in the City’s adopted Zoning Ordinance, subject to the procedures set forth in this Division.

B.    Review and approval for the following minor exception requests will be through Administrative Review, pursuant to the following provisions and based upon the findings contained in PMC 17.23.060(C), except that if the development project proposing such minor exception will be reviewed by the Planning Commission or City Council, the reviewing authority for the project may approve the minor exception in conjunction with the project approval.

1.    Fence height. The maximum height of any fence, wall, hedge, or equivalent screening may be increased by a maximum of two (2) feet, where topography or a difference in grade between abutting sites warrants such increase in height to maintain a level of privacy, or to maintain effectiveness of screening, or to provide additional security when warranted, provided that the increased height does not encroach into the Vehicle Site Distance or otherwise impede visibility of motorists. (Zoning Ordinance Amendment 97-2 adopted by City Council June 11, 1997)

2.    Setbacks. The minimum setback may be decreased by not more than ten (10) percent where the proposed setback area or yard is in character with the surrounding neighborhood and is not required as an essential open space or recreational amenity to the use of the site, and where such decrease will not unreasonably affect abutting sites. Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph, a minor exception may be granted to allow reduction of a required side yard on a single family residential lot by not more than five (5) feet, if it can be determined that the tentative tract map in which the lot is located was approved prior to the effective date of this Ordinance and that development patterns or conditions within the lot or tract make a larger setback impractical.

3.    Lot coverage. The maximum lot coverage may be increased by not more than ten (10) percent of the lot area, where such increases are necessary for improved site planning or architectural design, creation or maintenance of views, or otherwise facilitate desirable features or amenities, and where such increase will not unreasonably affect abutting sites.

4.    Off-site parking. A maximum of ten (10) percent of the required parking for a use may be located on a contiguous site. Said parking shall not be located more than three hundred (300) feet walking distance from the building entrance on the site of the use which such parking will serve, provided that the Planning Director determines that the use will be served as effectively, safely, and conveniently as it would be served if parking was located on the site for which it is required. For the purpose of this Section, contiguous shall mean sharing a common lot line and shall not include parcels, separated by a public right-of-way. The reviewing authority shall require an agreement to ensure on-going availability and maintenance of off-site parking facilities, pursuant to PMC 17.87.050(A)(3).

5.    On-site parking. A maximum ten (10) percent reduction in the required on-site parking spaces may be granted pursuant to PMC 17.87.030(C). The reviewing authority may grant reductions in the number of required parking spaces in accordance with an approved Transportation Demand Management program, pursuant to PMC 17.87.030(B)(5) or for provision of a bus turnout, pursuant to PMC 17.87.030(B)(6).

6.    Minor reconfiguration of existing parking. The reviewing authority may authorize minor reconfiguration of an existing parking lot in order to comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such reconfiguration may include a maximum ten (10) percent reduction of the applicable onsite parking requirements when it is demonstrated that the reduction will not result in a traffic hazard.

7.    Loading Facilities. A maximum reduction in the number of loading spaces on one (1) space may be granted by the reviewing authority, based upon a finding supported by evidence that such space will not be needed by the use.

8.    Height. The reviewing authority may authorize a ten (10) percent increase in the maximum height limitation for structures, not including signs. Such increases may be approved where necessary to significantly improve the site plan or architectural design, and where scenic views or solar access on surrounding properties are not affected.

9.    On-site landscaping. The reviewing authority may authorize a ten (10) percent decrease in the required on-site landscaping requirement, where it can be demonstrated that such reduction is necessary in order to provide for necessary public transportation and transit improvements, such as bus turnouts and turning lanes; where site constraints preclude the relocation of such landscaping to another location; and where the overall appearance of the site will not be adversely affected.

10.    Landscape setback area. The reviewing authority may allow averaging of the required landscape setback area adjacent to arterial streets, provided the following conditions are met:

a.    The required on-site landscaping requirement is fully met on the site; and

b.    No more than thirty (30%) percent of the landscape setback area along the site frontage shall be allowed to be reduced in width; and

c.    In no case shall the landscaped setback area be less than the ten (10) feet in width; and

d.    The overall landscape design shall not be adversely affected.

11.    Downtown Parking Reduction Study. A reduction in quantity of on-site parking or loading facilities required for uses in the Downtown Commercial Zone may be approved by the Planning Director and City Traffic/Transportation Engineer in consideration of any of the following factors: (Zoning Ordinance Amendment 96-1 adopted by City Council April 10, 1996.)

a.    Availability and proximity of on-street parking and/or municipal parking lots: Striped on-street parking, unstriped but permitted on street parking, median parking and parking within future municipal parking lots may be counted towards meeting a portion of the parking requirements, provided that the Downtown Parking Permit applicant can demonstrate the following to the satisfaction of the Planning Director:

(i)    On-street public parking, which is underutilized during the peak hours of the proposed business operation, exists within 500 feet of the subject property.

(ii)    Off-street municipal parking lots, which are underutilized during the peak hours of the proposed business operation, exist within 500 feet of the subject property.

It shall be the responsibility of the applicant to obtain and submit evidence supporting the off-site parking findings listed above.

b.    Provision of transit shelters may qualify a proposed project for a parking credit of up to ten (10) percent towards the overall parking requirements listed in this Chapter. Provision of bus benches or bus turnout may qualify a proposed project for a parking credit of up to five (5) percent towards the overall parking requirements listed in this Chapter.

c.    Provision of any three or more Pedestrian Amenities listed in PMC 17.75.030(A)(7) may qualify a proposed project for a parking credit of up to five (5) percent towards the overall parking requirements listed in this Chapter. (Zoning Ordinance Amendment 98-1, adopted by City Council March 10, 1999.)

d.    Any project which provides both transit and pedestrian amenities as described above may qualify for a cumulative parking credit of up to fifteen (15) percent.

e.    The Planning Director and City Traffic/Transportation Engineer will review and consider requests for reductions in the quantity of required parking or loading facilities for any use where the applicant can submit reliable and compelling evidence to demonstrate the adequacy of a lessor quantity of required parking or loading facilities. Said evidence shall normally consist of a parking study or parking survey, prepared by a qualified individual and meeting appropriate technical standards as deemed necessary by the City Planning Director and City Traffic/Transportation Engineer.

f.    Joint use of loading zones may be incorporated into a Downtown Parking Reduction study. When considering a request for joint use of loading zones, the reviewing authority shall consider proximity of the loading zone to the uses being served, the nature of the uses being served, their demand for frequent or continuous loading and the nature of the goods being loaded.

g.    Any change of use, change in combination of uses or change in location shall require application and approval of a new Downtown Parking Reduction Study.

12.    Other deviations from development standards determined by the Planning Director to be minor in nature, provided that such deviation does not exceed ten (10) percent of any required specification and no adverse effects will result from the deviation. (Zoning Ordinance Amendment 97-2 adopted by City Council June 11, 1997.)

C.    In calculating percentages specified in subsection B of this Section, rounding up of fractions shall not be permitted.

D.    Any request to deviate from development standards required by this Zoning Ordinance which is not listed in subsection B of this Section shall be deemed a variance and shall be reviewed by the Planning Commission at a public hearing.

E.    The Planning Commission is authorized to grant variances in accordance with the procedures in this Division, with respect to development standards which include but are not limited to the following:

1.    Fences, walls, and screening;

2.    Site area, width, and depth;

3.    Front, rear, and side yards;

4.    Lot coverage;

5.    Height of structures;

6.    Landscaping;

7.    Usable open space;

8.    Performance standards;

9.    Parking facilities; any reduction in the number of spaces shall be reviewed pursuant to the requirements of PMC 17.87.220. Provision of off-site parking is subject to the provisions of PMC 17.87.050(A)(3).

10.    Loading areas and facilities, provided that any reduction in the number of loading spaces is supported by evidence demonstrating that the space will not be needed by the use.

11.    Sign height, number, and location.

17.23.040 Application Procedures

A.    An application for a minor exception or variance shall be filed with the Planning Department, along with the required fee. The signed application shall be made by the property owner or his authorized agent.

B.    An application for a minor exception or variance shall be accompanied by all required materials and a site plan showing the subject property as well as the surrounding area. Plans of the subject property shall show all existing and proposed buildings and uses, and any other data required by the Planning Department to adequately review the application.

17.23.050 Approval Requirements

The following requirements may be placed upon a minor exception or variance by the reviewing authority as conditions of approval. All such conditions shall be binding upon the applicants and their successors.

A.    Requirements for special yards, open spaces, buffers, fences, walls, and screening;

B.    Requirements for installation and maintenance of landscaping and erosion control measures;

C.    Requirements for street improvements and dedications, regulation of vehicular ingress and egress, and traffic circulation;

D.    Requirements for maintenance of landscaping and other improvements;

E.    Establishment of development schedules or time limits for performance, completion, or removal;

F.    Requirements for periodic review by the reviewing authority;

G.    Any other such conditions as the reviewing authority may deem reasonably necessary to ensure compatibility with surrounding uses, to preserve the public health, safety and welfare, and to enable the reviewing authority to make the findings required by PMC 17.23.060(C).

17.23.060 Determination by the Approval Authority

A.    Minor exception

In evaluating a request for a minor exception, the Planning Director shall determine that the request satisfies the applicable requirements of PMC 17.23.030(B) and the required findings contained in subsection C of this Section and, if granted, is consistent with the General Plan and all applicable codes and ordinances. Prior to rendering a decision, the Planning Director shall provide written notice to contiguous property owners of the requested minor exception. Such notice shall contain a description of the type and location of the requested minor exception and the anticipated decision date, and shall allow ten (10) days to submit comments to the City. Upon the passage of ten (10) days, the Director may render a decision.

B.    Variance

The Planning Commission will determine the merits of any proposed variance, and its compliance with the principles, standards, policies, and goals of the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinance. Approval of any Variance shall be based upon the findings to be made by the approval authority in approving or denying a variance as contained in subsection C of this Section.

C.    Findings for approval of a minor exception or variance

1.    There are special circumstances applicable to the property, including size, shape, topography, location or surroundings, so that the strict application of this Zoning Ordinance would deprive such property of privileges enjoyed by other properties in the vicinity and under identical land use district classification;

2.    Granting the minor exception or variance is necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right possessed by other properties in the same vicinity and land use district and denied to the property for which the variance is sought;

3.    Granting the minor exception or variance will not be materially detrimental to the public health, safety, or welfare, or injurious to the properties or improvements in such vicinity and land use district in which the property is located;

4.    Granting the minor exception or variance does not constitute a special privilege inconsistent with the limitations upon other properties in the vicinity and land use district in which such property is located.

17.23.070 New Application Following Denial

Following the denial of a minor exception or variance application, no application for the same or substantially the same application on the same or substantially the same site shall be filed within one year of the date of denial.

17.23.080 Appeal Procedure

A.    Prior to its effective date, any decision made on a minor exception request by the Planning Director may be appealed to the Planning Commission, pursuant to the provisions of PMC 17.20.110.

B.    Prior to its effective date, any decision made on a variance by the Planning Commission may be appealed to the City Council, pursuant to the provisions of PMC 17.20.110.

17.23.090 Voiding of Variances or Minor Exceptions

A.    Except as otherwise provided in this Section, any variance or minor exception granted under the provisions of this Ordinance shall become null and void unless:

1.    The construction authorized by said variance or minor exception has been inaugurated within twelve (12) months of the effective date of said variance or minor exception, and pursued diligently to completion; or

2.    The occupancy of land or buildings authorized by such variance or minor exception has taken place within twelve (12) months of the effective date of such variance or minor exception.

B.    Where a variance request is granted concurrently with one or more other entitlements, the variance shall be in effect for the time period allotted under the other land use entitlements, not to exceed an initial period of thirty-six (36) months.

C.    Where circumstances beyond the control of the applicant cause delays which do not permit compliance with the time limits established herein, the reviewing authority may grant an extension of time for a period not to exceed twelve (12) additional months except as provided herein. Where a Variance request is granted concurrently with one or more entitlements, an extension of the variance may be considered by the reviewing authority concurrently with the time extension requests for the other entitlements; however, in no event shall a variance be extended beyond the expiration date of any other land use entitlement on the project site.

D.    The reviewing authority may void any variance or minor exception for non-compliance with the conditions set forth in approving the variance or minor exception.