Chapter 15.420
SUBDIVISION DESIGN AND BLOCK STRUCTURE

Sections:

15.420.010    Purpose.

15.420.020    Block design and connectivity standards.

15.420.030    Community design provisions.

15.420.040    Open space/parks.

15.420.050    Lot design.

15.420.060    Access, services and utilities.

15.420.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to:

A.    Enhance the character and livability of Ellensburg’s neighborhoods;

B.    Encourage compact and walkable neighborhoods;

C.    Promote “eyes on the street” for safety;

D.    Promote subdivision design that reduces energy consumption; and

E.    Integrate open spaces, natural elements, and recreational features into the design of developments. [Ord. 4656 § 1 (Exh. O2), 2013.]

15.420.020 Block design and connectivity standards.

Ellensburg’s comprehensive plan places a high priority on being a “walkable” community. “Walking” also includes alternative pedestrian-oriented modes of travel including wheel chairs and power chairs that are intended to be used on sidewalks and paths. In order to be walkable, there needs to be frequent accessible and attractive connections between destinations. Consequently, this requires a well connected system of streets and pathways that encourages people to walk. Thus block size and design have a direct impact on the walkability of a community.

A.    All Zones.

1.    Connectivity to Abutting Lands. The street system of proposed subdivisions shall be designed to connect with existing, proposed, and planned streets outside of the subdivision. Wherever a proposed development abuts unplatted land or other land with the capability of being further subdivided, street stubs shall be provided to allow access to future abutting subdivisions and to logically extend the street system into the surrounding area. All street stubs shall be provided with a temporary turnaround unless specifically exempted by the fire marshal, and the restoration and extension of the street shall be the responsibility of any future developer of the abutting land.

2.    Continuation of Streets. Planned streets shall connect with surrounding streets to permit the convenient movement of traffic between residential neighborhoods and to facilitate emergency access and evacuation. Connections shall be designed to meet or exceed the block standards in subsections (B) and (C) of this section, and to avoid or minimize through traffic on local streets.

3.    Pedestrian Accessways. Short internal pathways can improve pedestrian mobility within developments. Examples could include an accessway in the middle of a block or at the end of a cul-de-sac. Such access ways shall conform to all of the following standards:

a.    Width. Pedestrian accessways shall be located within dedicated public rights-of-way or private easements allowing public access with a minimum dimension of 10 feet in width;

b.    Design. Pedestrian accessways shall be constructed to sidewalk standards for local access roads or be designed as a multi-use trail per direction in the nonmotorized transportation plan. Also see Section 3, Street Standards, of the public works development standards. Alternative designs may be considered where significant environmental constraints are present;

c.    Safety. The accessway shall incorporate design treatments that avoid a “tunnel effect” in the corridor and create a potential safety problem. Design solutions could involve the width, length, and/or the alignment of the corridor, height of fences adjacent to the corridor, lighting treatments, and/or the proposed landscaping along the corridor;

d.    Accessibility. Pedestrian accessways shall conform to applicable ADA requirements, except where not required by applicable ADA rules and regulations;

e.    The city may require landscaping as part of the required pedestrian accessway improvement to buffer pedestrians from adjacent vehicles and land uses. Plantings shall emphasize drought tolerant and low maintenance materials and shall maintain adequate visibility for safety; and

f.    Where pedestrian accessways are privately owned, they shall be operated and maintained by the developer until: (1) the declaration and covenants for plat are recorded, and (2) a homeowners’ organization has been established which shall be legally responsible for the operation and maintenance of the pedestrian accessway.

B.    Residential Zones. New residential developments shall provide an integrated and connected network of streets to help provide a sense of place and orientation and provide multiple travel route options for all users. A street network dominated by long, irregular loop roads and cul-de-sacs is not appropriate. The following standards apply to new development in the residential zones:

1.    Blocks shall be designed to provide pedestrian and vehicular connections at intervals no greater than 660 feet.

2.    Departures from the standard in subsection (B)(1) of this section will be considered by the reviewing authority per ECC 15.210.060 provided the alternative design meets the purposes of the standards (see ECC 15.420.010) and meets the following criteria:

a.    A departure provides the opportunity for a public open space or other public amenity that goes well beyond minimum standards herein. For example, a larger block could allow for the development of a compact village of dwelling units around a centralized open space; and

b.    Departures meeting criteria set forth in subsection (B)(2)(a) of this section allow configurations with pedestrian and vehicular connections at intervals greater than 660 feet, but no greater than 1,000 feet, except when the following conditions are present: where topography, right-of-way, existing construction or physical conditions, or other geographic conditions prevent compliance or impose an unusual hardship on the applicant, the reviewing authority shall relax the standards provided the proposed design maximizes pedestrian and vehicular connectivity on the site given the constraints.

Figure 15.420.020(B)(1). A good example of a connected network of streets. Also note how block lengths are measured.

Figure 15.420.020(B)(2). Illustrating an example of subdivision design and street grid on a site in Ellensburg. All blocks shown meet requirements (maximum length 660 feet). Note that mid-block pedestrian connections are used to access the Iron Horse Trail, rather than a full street connection, which would not be desirable in this case.

C.    Commercial and Light Industrial Zones. Similar to residential areas, an integrated and connected network of streets is important in commercial zones to help provide a sense of place and orientation and provide multiple travel route options for all users. Connectivity is particularly critical in areas that allow for a mix of uses (including both residential and commercial uses). More flexibility is warranted in industrial zones, interchange commercial areas (such as the C-T zone), and within service oriented commercial areas (such as the C-H zone).

1.    C-C, C-C II, and C-N Zones. Blocks shall be designed to provide pedestrian and vehicular connections at intervals no greater than 400 feet; and

2.    C-H, C-T, and I-L Zones. (See Figure 15.420.020(C).)

a.    Blocks shall be designed to provide pedestrian connections at intervals no greater than 660 feet; and

b.    Blocks shall be designed to provide vehicular connections at intervals no greater than 1,320 feet. Private streets and other internal circulation routes may be used to meet block/circulation requirements where such connections meet the purposes of the standards.

Figure 15.420.020(C). Examples of private streets and internal circulation elements that could be used to meet the connection standards for the C-T, C-H, or I-L zones.

3.    Exceptions to the standard in subsections (C)(1) and (2) of this section will be considered by the reviewing authority when the following conditions are present: where topography, right-of-way, existing construction or physical conditions, or other geographic conditions prevent compliance or impose an unusual hardship on the applicant, the reviewing authority shall relax the standards provided the proposed design maximizes pedestrian and vehicular connectivity on the site given the constraints. [Ord. 4807 § 53, 2018; Ord. 4656 § 1 (Exh. O2), 2013.]

15.420.030 Community design provisions.

A.    Development of Neighborhoods. New residential subdivisions are encouraged to be designed to be integrated with the surrounding neighborhood to ensure that they maintain the established character, where consistent with the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan. Subdivisions in city expansion areas should be designed so that individual, separately developed projects work together to create distinct neighborhoods, instead of disjointed or isolated enclaves. The case study in Figure 15.420.020(B)(2) is a good example of how to accomplish this.

B.    Integration with Existing/Planned Open Space. New residential subdivisions adjacent to planned or existing parks or other public open spaces (e.g., creeks, riparian areas), or the landscaped grounds of schools or other public facilities shall be designed to maximize visibility and pedestrian access to these areas through street configuration, pathways, and development orientation.

C.    Integration with Natural Amenities. (See Figure 15.420.030(C).) New residential subdivisions are encouraged to preserve and integrate natural amenities (views, mature trees, creeks, rock outcrops, and other similar features) with the development as an amenity. Clustering of lots/units and adjusting roadway configuration to integrate these features are encouraged as a means of achieving these goals. Public access and visibility to these natural amenities are encouraged. For example, trails along the perimeter of wetland buffers are an attractive option.

Figure 15.420.030(C). Examples of a subdivision configured to save large existing trees as an amenity to new housing development.

D.    Edges and Fences. “Gated communities” and other residential developments designed to appear as continuous walled-off areas, disconnected and isolated from the rest of the community, are not allowed. While privacy fences separating rear yards between dwelling units are desirable for privacy, tall fences that back up to streets tend to reduce the number of “eyes on the street” and make such streets feel less safe and welcoming.

Specifically:

1.    Gated communities are prohibited.

2.    Subdivision design that incorporates reverse frontage lots is prohibited. This refers to double frontage lots that front on one street, but back up to the other and typically include fences that run along the street edge for back yard privacy (see Figure 15.420.030(D)(1)). As an alternative to lots backing up to collectors and arterials, developments can provide lots that face such streets and incorporate alleys to the rear for vehicular access. Consider wider front yards and/or planting strips to buffer negative impacts from these streets. (See Figure 15.420.030(D)(2).)

Exception: Reverse frontage lots are allowed where rear yard fences are buffered from the street by an irrigated landscaped strip at least 10 feet wide in a permanent easement with Type A, B, C landscaping (per ECC 15.570.040) or other landscaping that effectively mitigates the visual impact of the fence on the streetscape. The landscaped strip and adjacent sidewalk shall be maintained by a private homeowners’ association pursuant to ECC 15.290.020.

Figure 15.420.030(D)(1). Examples of reverse frontage lots that back up to collectors and arterial streets (note fences lining the street). (Images courtesy of Bing maps.)

Figure 15.420.030(D)(2). Examples of lots that front an arterial street and contain alleys in the back for garage access.

E.    Design Diversity. Residential subdivisions are encouraged to incorporate measures that promote design diversity. This can be accomplished by (see Figures 15.420.030E(1) and (2)):

1.    Providing a mixture of lot sizes and/or front setbacks (which could be specified on the plat); and/or

2.    Providing a diversity of floor plans and facade treatments that avoid monotonous streetscapes. This could be accomplished with provisions on the plat and/or special covenants required for lots.

Figure 15.420.030(E)(1). The above dwellings feature a good diversity of facade designs, colors and rooflines.

Figure 15.420.030(E)(2). Avoid monotonous rows of duplicative dwellings (top example). One solution is to use a diversity of floor plans and facade/roofline designs per Figure 15.420.030(E)(1). Another solution is to prescribe variable setbacks such as in the example above.

[Ord. 4807 § 54, 2018; Ord. 4656 § 1 (Exh. O2), 2013.]

15.420.040 Open space/parks.

Parks and open space integrated into subdivisions shall meet the following design criteria:

A.    Must Be Convenient, Usable and Accessible. All open spaces shall be physically and visually accessible from the adjacent street or major internal pedestrian route. Open spaces shall be in locations that the intended user(s) can easily access and use, rather than simply left-over or undevelopable space in locations where very little pedestrian traffic is anticipated. Locations integrated with transit stops, for instance, would be encouraged, as there is likely to be pedestrian traffic in the area.

Figure 15.420.040(A). These parks are located in accessible and centralized locations within the neighborhood. Both parks have accessibility from streets on multiple sides combined with good visibility from adjacent dwellings.

B.    Must Be Inviting. Inviting open spaces feature amenities and activities that encourage pedestrians to use and explore the space. On a large scale, it could be a combination of active and passive recreational uses. It could include a children’s play area, special landscaping element, or even a comfortable place to sit and watch the world go by. In order for people to linger in an open space, it must be comfortable. For instance, a plaza space should receive ample sunlight, particularly at noon, and have design elements that lend the space a “human scale,” including landscaping elements, benches and other seating areas, and pedestrian-scaled lighting. No use shall be allowed within the open space that adversely affects the aesthetic appeal or usability of the open space.

Figure 15.420.040(B). Examples of inviting park design, with design features and amenities that attract usage from the surrounding community.

C.    Must Be Safe. Safe open spaces incorporate crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) principles:

1.    Natural surveillance – which occurs when parks or plazas are open to view by the public and neighbors. For example, a plaza that features residential units with windows looking down on space means that the space has good “eyes” on the park or plaza;

2.    Lighting that reflects the intended hours of operation and is appropriate for the proposed activities;

3.    Landscaping and fencing. Avoid configurations that create dangerous hiding spaces or minimize views;

4.    Entrances should be prominent, well lit, and highly visible from inside and outside of the space; and

5.    Maintenance. Open spaces shall utilize commercial grade materials that will last and require minimal maintenance costs. Walls, where necessary, shall be designed and treated to deter graffiti. Use and maintain landscape materials that reduce maintenance cost and maintain visibility, where desired.

D.    Provides for uses/activities that appropriately serve the anticipated residents and users of the development. For example, common open space that serves a variety of functions will attract greater usage. When designing open spaces, project applicants should consider a broad range of age groups, from small children to teens, parents, and seniors.

E.    Must Be Well Maintained. Open space shall be maintained by the land owner(s) unless the city or other public authority accepts an offer of dedication. [Ord. 4807 § 55, 2018; Ord. 4656 § 1 (Exh. O2), 2013.]

15.420.050 Lot design.

Lots within subdivisions shall be designed to allow placement of dwelling units to address functional design issues. Lots shall be designed to contain a usable building area. If the building area would be difficult to develop, the lot shall be redesigned or eliminated, unless special conditions can be imposed that will ensure the lot is developed consistent with the standards of this code and does not create nonconforming structures, uses or lots.

The placement and orientation of lots and dwelling units should consider privacy, solar orientation, access, location and access to open space and other factors that can contribute to the overall livability of the dwelling and its relationship to the surrounding environment. Flexibility shall be encouraged in spatial orientation of dwellings on lots to address these issues and create interesting and attractive streetscapes with homes having a high functional value that might not otherwise occur with a less flexible approach.

To maximize site efficiency and usable open space, small lot developments (generally less than 5,000 square feet in area and less than 50 feet wide) are encouraged to utilize zero-lot line and courtyard access configurations (as described below) or related design schemes provided they meet access, design, and other applicable standards set forth in this title.

A.    Zero Lot Line. This is a configuration where the house and/or garage is built up to one of the side property lines, providing the opportunity for more usable side yard space. Standards:

1.    Dwelling units and accessory structures may be placed on one interior side property line. The opposite side yard shall be at least 10 feet. Also see ECC 15.540.020 for single-family standards, including minimum usable open space.

2.    Privacy Wall. In order to maintain privacy, no windows, doors, air conditioning units, or any other types of openings in the walls along a zero lot line structure are allowed except for windows that do not allow for visibility into the side yard of the adjacent lot. Examples include clerestory or obscured windows. See Figure 15.420.050(A) for an example of a privacy wall for a zero lot line house.

3.    Eaves along a zero lot line may project a maximum of 18 inches over the property line.

4.    Lots intended for zero lot line dwellings shall be noted on the plat, together with minimum side yard areas and maximum building envelopes.

Figure 15.420.050(A). Zero lot line layout example (left). The right image shows the side yard and privacy wall for a zero lot line house.

B.    Reciprocal Use Easement Lots. This works similar to the zero lot line configuration, except that the dwelling units and accessory structures meet the standard setbacks and easements are granted on one side yard to allow consolidated use of the side yards by the adjacent property (see Figure 15.420.050(B) for example). Also, configurations providing for reciprocal use easements in the rear yard are allowed to maximize usable open space (see Figure 15.420.050(B) for example). Standards/provisions:

1.    Reciprocal easements shall be noted on the plat. Easement areas may be used for minimum usable open space requirements set forth in ECC 15.540.020(D).

2.    Privacy Wall. In order to maintain privacy, no windows, doors, air conditioning units, or any other types of openings in the walls of a structure along a reciprocal use easement are allowed except for windows that do not allow for visibility into the side yard of the adjacent lot. Examples include clerestory or obscured windows. See Figure 15.420.050(A) for an example of a privacy wall.

3.    Areas within reciprocal use easements may count towards usable open space requirements for applicable lots.

Figure 15.420.050(B). Example of a reciprocal side yard easement configuration (left image) and reciprocal rear yard easement configuration (right image).

C.    Courtyard Access Lots. This includes a series of lots clustered around a private internal roadway. Standards:

1.    Maximum number of lots served by a courtyard access: five (this includes lots fronting the street on either side of the courtyard access).

2.    Maximum length of a courtyard access: 100 feet (or deeper if approved by the fire code official). The length may be increased to 150 feet if all structures beyond 100 feet of the street are equipped with automatic fire sprinkler systems.

3.    Surface width of courtyard access: 15 feet minimum, to provide access for ambulances. Provisions shall be made to keep the access clear of snow, vehicles (“no parking” signs), and vegetation.

4.    An easement of 20 feet in width shall be secured over the applicable parcels to allow lots legal access to the public street. A maintenance agreement shall be required for all applicable lots and must be recorded on the plat.

5.    Buildings accessed from a courtyard access are limited to two stories in height, due to aerial apparatus access limitations.

Figure 15.420.050(C). Examples of courtyard access lots.

D.    Pedestrian-Only Entry Lots. This includes configurations where one or more lots are clustered around a pedestrian easement and/or common open space and do not front on a street (see Figure 15.420.050(D) for an example). Most cottage housing developments (see ECC 15.540.050) are an example of this. Standards:

1.    A pedestrian entry easement shall be provided to all dwellings that do not front on a street, alley, or common open space.

2.    Pedestrian entry easements shall be five to 10 feet wide with a five-foot minimum sidewalk constructed per local access street standards in Section 3 of the public works development standards.

3.    Fire sprinklers are required for dwellings more than 100 feet from a fire access road.

4.    Buildings within pedestrian-only entry lots are limited to two stories in height.

5.    Dwellings more than 150 feet from a street will require fire department access as defined in the current International Fire Code (IFC).

6.    These lots must contain private detached or shared garages off an alley or other access if approved by the public works and utilities director.

Figure 15.420.050(D). Pedestrian-only entry lot configuration examples.

E.    Alley Access Lots. This includes configurations where lots are provided with vehicular access by an alley designed per Section 3, Street Standards, of the city’s public works development standards. Pedestrian access to each alley access lot shall be provided by either a public street (per Chapter 15.410 ECC and Section 3, Street Standards, of the city’s public works development standards) or a pedestrian easement a minimum of 10 feet wide with a five-foot minimum sidewalk constructed per local access street standards in Section 3, Street Standards, of the public works development standards.

Figure 15.420.050(E). Alley access lot examples. The left example, Wheaton Court in Ellensburg, features direct pedestrian access to the street in the front and garage access off of an alley in the back. In the right image, lots feature pedestrian access from a trail/open space corridor (easement) with garage access off of an alley in the back.

F.    Protective Covenants. The styles of developments discussed above require special consideration to ensure conflicts between neighbors are minimized and that opportunities are provided for a homeowners’ association to deal with unique issues created by these development forms. Covenants for these development styles shall be written to address issues unique to small lot developments that use reciprocal use and easement agreements. The city shall review and approve any necessary easements and/or covenant agreement. [Ord. 4807 § 56, 2018; Ord. 4804 § 4, 2018; Ord. 4656 § 1 (Exh. O2), 2013.]

15.420.060 Access, services and utilities.

A.    Each lot in a residential subdivision shall have access directly to a public right-of-way, except for:

1.    Alternative lot designs as described in EEC 15.420.050. Driveways shall be constructed per public works development standards and ECC Title 4, Public Works;

2.    Shared driveways may access up to five lots provided they are at least 15 feet wide and a maximum of 400 feet long. Provisions shall be made to keep the driveways clear of snow, vehicles (“no parking” signs), and vegetation.

Any lot created that is not adjacent to a public right-of-way but that has a right of ingress and egress to that right-of-way; provided, that such right has been established as a matter of record in a manner that runs with the land and is irrevocable.

B.    Each lot in a residential subdivision shall be provided with adequate provisions for water supplies, sanitary wastewater facilities, storm drainage and surface water facilities, electric, and natural gas facilities (if applicable), consistent with the requirements of the public works development standards and ECC Title 9, Utilities; and

C.    Approval of subdivisions may be conditioned upon dedications to the city of drainage ways, other public ways, water supplies, sanitary wastewater facilities, parks, playgrounds, and sites for schools per RCW 58.17.110 and subject to the provisions of RCW 82.02.020. [Ord. 4656 § 1 (Exh. O2), 2013.]