Chapter 18.48


18.48.010    Purpose and intent.

18.48.020    Downtown catalyst criteria.

18.48.030    Catalyst benefit area.

18.48.040    Process.

18.48.050    Limitations.

18.48.060    Catalyst Review Committee.

18.48.070    Scoring categories.

18.48.080    Catalyst project designation.

18.48.010 Purpose and intent.

A.    The City of Ferndale seeks to establish a time-limited incentive for the purpose of promoting the development of significant mixed-use buildings within the downtown core, for the purpose of catalyzing further development and redevelopment within the area.

B.    Up to three projects which meet the minimum requirements of this program, including minimum thresholds for size, number of residential units, architectural design, parking configuration, and a four-element scoring system, shall be eligible for a waiver of all City fees.

C.    The intent of the catalyst incentive is to restore and enhance Ferndale’s downtown core, and encourage key goals for development downtown, by:

1.    Diversifying residential housing options with an emphasis on increasing the numbers of condominium units within the downtown core;

2.    Promoting development adjacent to Main Street and downtown park areas;

3.    Increased public space;

4.    Encouraging redevelopment of nonconforming or underdeveloped sites;

5.    Increasing art in the public space;

6.    Supporting the assemblage of small lots that cannot be efficiently redeveloped on an individual basis;

7.    Recognizing the long-term efficiencies and durability of green building techniques achieved through LEED certification.

D.    Catalyst projects shall be exempted from the special height limits described in FMC 18.46.080(B); provided, that those structures on corner locations include an architectural accent approved by the Zoning Administrator. Height restrictions required by the shoreline master program shall be maintained. (Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.020 Downtown catalyst criteria.

A.    The City of Ferndale shall waive all administrative, impact, and connection fees for up to three development projects that meet all of the following criteria. The development project must consist of:

1.    A minimum of three stories.

2.    A minimum of 15 residential dwelling units.

3.    A minimum of 5,000 square feet of first floor commercial area.

4.    New construction (existing buildings are not eligible for the incentive program).

5.    All required on-site parking shall be placed within the footprint of the building and/or on private property behind the building, with no off-street parking credits for residential uses. In addition, on-site parking shall be screened or placed within a structure so as to obscure visibility from a public park.

6.    Architecture complies with Downtown Architectural and Site Design Standards (Chapter 18.47 FMC), in the judgment of the Zoning Administrator.

7.    Projects maximizing the goals established by FMC 18.48.010, as well as FMC 18.48.070, which are listed below:

a.    Public benefit.

b.    Architectural design.

c.    Site design.

d.    Catalyst effectiveness.

8.    Development must be initiated by April 1, 2023, in order to be eligible, and must demonstrate a plan to complete construction by April 1, 2025. For the purposes of this section, “initiated” shall mean the issuance of either a land disturbance permit for full civil work associated with the project, or, in the absence of a land disturbance permit, the issuance of a building permit representing all or a majority of the total square footage for the proposed development.

9.    A maximum of three development projects shall be eligible for this incentive, processed based on the timing of the submittal of complete application and the applicant’s ability to demonstrate adequate capital/funding to complete the project.

a.    There shall be no penalty against multiple catalyst developments within the same general area, or against multiple projects that are distributed throughout the general area, although no more than one catalyst project may be established west of Fourth Avenue unless there are less than two qualifying projects proposed east of Fourth Avenue, in which case additional qualifying projects west of Fourth Avenue shall be considered.

10.    Following designation as a catalyst project, material changes to catalyst projects shall not be allowed without prior review by the Catalyst Review Committee. For the purposes of this section, substantive changes shall mean any of the following:

a.    A 10 percent change in the number of residential units or to the gross size of the commercial area;

b.    Disclosure of a phased development approach not identified in the original application materials;

c.    A substantive change, in the judgment of the Community Development Director, to elements for which the development was scored pursuant to FMC 18.47.290, Downtown performance standards, or to purpose and intent categories for which points have been awarded, regardless of whether such points would have altered the project’s eligibility as a catalyst development; or

d.    The increase or decrease of roof height by more than 10 percent. (Ord. 2184 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2021; Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.030 Catalyst benefit area.

The catalyst benefit area shall include all properties in the City center zone, which are the highlighted properties in Map 1, below; however, only one project will be permitted west of Fourth Avenue, subject to FMC 18.48.020(A)(9)(a).

Map 1.

(Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.040 Process.

A.    Application. Applicants wishing to participate in the program shall schedule a preapplication meeting with City staff. The applicant shall complete an intent to develop a downtown catalyst project form by the close of business on September 1, 2019, and shall submit that form together with a site plan review application to the Community Development Department. Applications shall be accepted on a rolling basis within the five-month application period. Those applications, and only those applications, that are submitted prior to the close of this application period will be reviewed and considered for the incentive. At the close of the application period, the City may consider a one-time extension to the application period only if less than three eligible projects are proposed.

B.    Technical Review. The City shall then conduct a Technical Review Committee meeting to review the proposed development based on typical City regulations, and to verify that the application conforms to the catalyst incentive criteria listed in FMC 18.48.020. The City will endeavor to expedite reviews of these catalyst projects. The Technical Review Committee may conduct its reviews on a rolling basis during the five-month application period.

C.    The Catalyst Review Committee. The Catalyst Review Committee shall review and score all applications, and shall determine which applications are eligible for the catalyst incentive benefit. The Catalyst Review Committee shall seek to complete its review within 30 days of the application deadline and all applications are considered complete, subject to change depending upon the accuracy of the development application.

D.    Certification. Once the Catalyst Review Committee identifies eligible proposals, the Committee shall forward its recommendation to the City Council for consideration and certification. Those proposals that are approved by the City Council shall be certified as catalyst projects. (Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.050 Limitations.

This catalyst program shall not be interpreted as a guarantee of City approval of any development project, nor shall the program imply additional flexibility from the City in the form of development standards, street vacations, environmental protection, building code or life safety requirements, architectural or site design, or any other regulation. The catalyst program represents a broad public purpose that will benefit the Ferndale community, intended to restore and enhance Ferndale’s downtown core. (Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.060 Catalyst Review Committee.

A.    The Catalyst Review Committee shall consist of five persons, including three members of the City Council chosen by vote of the City Council, one Planning Commission member nominated by the Mayor and approved by the City Council, and a member of the EAGLE Board nominated by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. The Catalyst Review Committee shall consider all catalyst applications and will select up to three applications as being eligible for a full waiver of fees. The goal of the Committee will be to evaluate projects based upon the scoring criteria described in FMC 18.48.070.

B.    Following technical review of eligible applications by City staff, and following the close of the application period, the Catalyst Review Committee shall be provided a technical review of each project’s eligibility by City staff. City staff will score each project on automatic bonus points based on seven critical criteria described in FMC 18.48.010(C). Bonus points will be full points or none for each of the seven criteria, with no judgment or partial consideration by staff. Staff may not provide recommendations for approval or denial of fee waivers. Each applicant shall be given the opportunity to present their project before the Catalyst Review Committee, and Committee members shall be authorized to ask technical questions of the applicant.

C.    Each Committee member shall score the project independently, based upon the four categories listed in FMC 18.48.070(A). Nothing shall prevent Committee members from discussing the elements of the project amongst themselves prior to scoring the project. Each Committee member may award up to 10 points for each category, assigning no more than 40 points total per project, per Committee member, or a total of 200 points per project, and 240 points maximum per project when points associated with the critical criteria (FMC 18.48.010(C)) are included.

D.    Following the independent scoring exercise, the Committee members shall provide their scoring sheets to City staff, who shall then tabulate all scores and announce the results, with the scores of individual members remaining confidential.

E.    The three projects with the highest scores above 190 combined points shall be forwarded to the City Council for final consideration. The Council shall review the scores of the Review Committee and shall be authorized to allow members of the public, staff and the applicant to speak on the subject. The City Council shall then be authorized to approve (certify) or deny the recommendations of the Committee. Those applications that are approved shall be invited to enter into a catalyst development agreement as described in FMC 18.48.080(A).

F.    If less than three projects score above 190, any projects scoring between 170 and 190 points shall be invited to modify their proposals based on feedback from the Committee. The Committee may allow up to three weeks (21 days) for applicants to submit modified project(s) for review. The Committee shall seek to review these modifications within three weeks (21 days) of resubmittal. (Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.070 Scoring categories.

A.    The Catalyst Review Committee shall evaluate eligible projects based on the four categories described below. In evaluating projects, Committee members shall seek to identify points based on the general compliance with the category itself; there is not a specific number of points that must be provided for compliance or noncompliance with any one element described in the category.

Points shall be based on the following scale: 0 = no attempt, 3 = moderate attempt at one category aspect, 5 = moderate attempts at two category aspects, 7 = good attempt at two aspects or excellent attempt at one category aspect, 10 = good attempt at three or more aspects and/or excellent attempt at one or more aspects.

1.    Public Benefit. In what manner does the development directly benefit the public? The Committee may consider public benefits derived from the land use or types of land use proposed, the density of the development, and any amenities that are enhanced or made available to the public as a result of the development. Examples of public benefit could include, but are not limited to: inclusion of affordable housing units; expansion or incorporation of recreation areas; public gathering areas, whether as part of a business or as a designated open space; publicly viewable art.

2.    Architectural Design. Does the development reflect design details or include architectural concepts that are compatible with the vision for the downtown core? Or, does the design of the buildings create an unwelcoming impression that may tend to limit further development in the surrounding area? Examples of desired architectural design include but are not limited to: development which incorporates tasteful, unique, and iconic elements; development which includes low impact or energy-efficient design; development which expands and enhances the City’s skyline.

3.    Site Design. Has the applicant arranged the development site in a manner that effectively takes advantage of public space, including adjacent public or private rights-of-way? Or, does the site limit interaction with the general public? Examples of desired site design could include but are not limited to: orientation to the Nooksack River, Mount Baker, and the southern sun; engagement with the adjacent street; full use of the subject property; on-site parking in excess of minimum City requirements; integration of stormwater requirements with site design; and other elements.

4.    Catalyst Effectiveness. If developed, is there a reasonable expectation that, given favorable market and growth conditions, this project would have a direct positive impact on the surrounding area, as measured by additional development, increased investment in existing buildings or businesses, etc.? Examples of catalyst effectiveness could include but are not limited to: development on or in close proximity to Main Street and the traditional downtown core; the redevelopment of properties that have remained vacant or underdeveloped for a prolonged period of time; development of properties in close proximity to other catalyst projects or emerging areas; removal of nonconforming buildings or uses; consolidation of small properties; expansion or extension of infrastructure that may support future development; inclusion of condominiumized housing units.

B.    Staff shall award automatic bonus points for the following key goals, with no grading or judgment:

1.    All residential units available for purchase (condominiumized) – 10 points.

2.    Fronting Main Street or public park – Five points.

3.    Art viewable from the public space – Five points.

Examples: mural, large artistic sign, sculpture, artistic elements in the facade, sculpture/bike rack, sculpture/planter, water feature or fountain, etc. Artistic elements at the ground level shall be a minimum of six feet in height or length. Artistic elements in the facade shall be at least 10 square feet in size, which can include a combination of more than one element. Murals shall be a minimum of 100 square feet. All art shall be privately maintained, and shall be subject to enforcement for failure to adequately and perpetually maintain the element.

4.    Public space – Five points.

Examples: courtyard, plaza, or landscaped open space with a minimum of 100 square feet, public parking equal to at least 10 percent more than the sum of the total required residential parking and any additional mixed use or commercial parking required by code.

5.    Redevelopment of a site with existing improvements – Five points.

6.    Assemblage of smaller sites – Five points.

7.    LEED Gold or higher – Five points. (Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)

18.48.080 Catalyst project designation.

A.    The Catalyst Review Committee may recommend approval of up to three applications as downtown catalyst projects, and the City Council shall consider whether to certify those projects as downtown catalysts. The applicant and the City shall enter into an agreement through which the City will waive all City fees; provided, that the applicant can meet the construction deadlines identified in the agreement.

B.    With the exception of serious injury or an act of God, should the applicant fail to meet the construction deadlines the agreement shall be considered null and void, and the applicant shall be required to either reapply for a catalyst incentive, shall pay the current fees owing, or shall cancel the project.

C.    Applications that have failed to meet construction deadlines as specified in the catalyst agreement shall lose project vesting with regard to this program. Should other eligible projects be proposed prior to the applicant regaining vesting, these projects may be incorporated into the program, superseding the prior vesting of those applications that have lost vested status within the program. (Ord. 2150 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2130 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2020; Ord. 2095 § 1 (Exh. 1), 2019)