Chapter 15.36


15.36.010    Purpose.

15.36.020    Permitted uses.

15.36.030    Conditional uses.

15.36.040    Design and site plan review.

15.36.050    Dwelling unit density bonus.

15.36.060    Dimensional standards.

15.36.070    Nonconforming structures and change of use in the Transitional Commercial Zone.

15.36.010 Purpose.

The Transitional Commercial Zone lies at the intersection of commercial, residential, public and industrial uses and at the southern terminus of the National Historic Preservation District (HPD). Therefore, the allowed uses in this area must take into account the transition from and to these diverse uses. Additionally, the zone must respect and carry forth the design requirements of the HPD to avoid compromising the values of the HPD. The transitional area therefore also requires enhanced design and site plan review to ensure that future development lessens the adverse impacts on the adjoining zones, and provides for a smooth transition between them. [Ord. 877 § 7, 2003.]

15.36.020 Permitted uses.

The following are the list of permitted uses for the Transitional Commercial Zone by certificate of authorization:

(1) Child care facilities, such as nurseries and day care centers;

(2) Commercial or trade schools, such as art, dance, music, martial arts;

(3) Community centers and fraternal lodges;

(4) Entertainment facilities, such as theaters, auditoriums, bowling alleys, arcades, billiards/pool parlors, indoor recreation centers, gymnasiums/spas/health clubs;

(5) Farmer’s markets;

(6) Financial institutions;

(7) Food service establishments, such as restaurants, delicatessens, and ice cream shops;

(8) Retail gas sales and service stations;

(9) Lodging establishments, such as hotels, motels, inns;

(10) Marine facilities, such as marinas, boat launches, dry boat storage, boat repair and gas docks where directly water-related;

(11) Medical offices and clinics, such as doctors, dentists, chiropractors, laboratories;

(12) Ball fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, outdoor swimming pools, and water-oriented recreational uses;

(13) Plant nurseries;

(14) Professional offices, such as law, realty, architecture, engineering, therapists, counselors, consulting;

(15) Public use facilities, such as parks, floats, parking lots, libraries, government offices and buildings;

(16) Retail sales of nonperishable goods, such as clothing stores, shoe stores, bookstores, gift shops, pharmacies, hardware stores, and antique shops;

(17) Retail sales of perishable goods, such as grocery stores, specialty food stores, feed and seed stores;

(18) Service businesses, such as blueprint printing, catering, tailoring, travel agencies, upholstery shops, woodworking shops, laundries/dry cleaners, light mechanical repair stores (camera, TV, bicycle). [Ord. 877 § 8, 2003.]

15.36.030 Conditional uses.

The following uses and structures are permitted in the Transitional Commercial Zone by conditional use permit:

(1) Transitional housing and housing for people with functional disabilities;

(2) Residential Uses.

(a) Residential Mixed with Commercial.

(i) Residential dwelling units, attached or detached, shall not exceed 49 percent of the total square footage of building(s) located within the urban commercial environment as designated by the shoreline master program. The percentage outside the shoreline area shall be governed by the total residential percentage maximum for the zone;

(ii) Residential units shall be limited to the second floor of a commercial building when the building fronts First Street or Caledonia Street between First Street and the vacated Second Street right-of-way;

(iii) The applicant must apply for and submit a site plan for the entire development and no occupancy of the residential component of a mixed-use building shall occur until the commercial portion of the building is ready for occupancy;

(b) Residential.

(i) Single-family, attached townhouses, and multifamily residential buildings may be allowed when located east of the vacated portion of Second Street; west of Third Street; south of Moore Street; and north of Caledonia Street;

(ii) If phased development occurs, all street improvements for streets abutting the Transitional Commercial Zone, utilities and public amenities required for the build-out of the Transitional Commercial Zone shall be installed prior to, or concurrent with, development;

(c) Residential Unit Limit. A maximum of 26 residential units, whether pursuant to subsection (2)(a) or (b) of this section, may be sited in the entire Transitional Commercial Zone; provided, that maximum units may be increased to 36 units if the entire development meets the density bonus criteria set forth in LCMC 15.36.050;

(3) The total square footage of residential development, townhouse and residential portions of mixed buildings within the Transitional Commercial Zone shall not exceed 65 percent of the total building square footage within the zone;

(4) Light industrial uses, artistic endeavors, and those commercial uses which would create noise, light, odors, traffic congestion or dust not normally associated with commercial operations, provided that:

(a) The building design is to be consistent with those structures housing commercial uses in the district, and the operational characteristics are compatible with surrounding uses;

(b) There shall be no fire, explosion or safety hazards;

(c) There shall be no production of noise at any property line with any use in the transitional district in excess of the average intensity of street and traffic noise found in the district;

(d) Pollution, noise, and safety standards set by regional, state or federal agencies, boards, or commissions shall be satisfied. Failure to comply with such regulations shall void the conditional use;

(5) Veterinary clinics, small animal hospitals and animal grooming parlors, provided the facility has no outside kennels;

(6) Private schools;

(7) Outdoor recreational uses, other than those allowed;

(8) Rest homes and adult family homes;

(9) Retail sales establishments with outdoor sales lots, such as vehicle sales, rental, service, and repair, lumber yards, farm and garden supply, and yacht sales;

(10) Taverns, nightclubs and dance halls. [Ord. 989 § 2, 2007; Ord. 972 § 2, 2006; Ord. 877 § 9, 2003.]

15.36.040 Design and site plan review.

Design and site plan review is a Type III permit activity with regard to all projects and proposals for development within the Transitional Commercial Zone.

(1) Design Review. Any development proposal in the Transitional Commercial Zone shall undergo a design review for compliance with the Historic Preservation District (HPD) guidelines by the planning commission. The transitional commercial area is emerging from the historic district public use area, and connecting to industrial and residential areas to the south and east. To preserve the integrity of the HPD and values of adjacent properties, the commercial development of properties adjacent to the HPD shall undergo design review with the following guidelines.

(2) Design Review Purpose and Intent.

(a) To ensure a smooth transition from the architecture and building styles of the historic district of First Street to a commercial zone adjacent to residential, public use and industrial zones.

(b) To ensure that new construction and additions are consistent with the scale, forms and proportions of the adjacent Historic Preservation District.

(c) To develop building uses that extend the First Street identity along the waterfront.

(d) To avoid repetitive or monolithic designs.

(3) Design Criteria.

(a) Uses shall be mixed vertically and horizontally on the same lot.

(b) For buildings with multiple uses on First Street, the commercial uses shall be ground floor fronting the street with residential uses to the rear of the property and upper floors. Commercial uses may extend to the upper floors. However, residential uses shall not be located on the ground floor fronting First Street.

(c) In buildings fronting First Street, upper floor residential units shall be stepped back from the street side building edge a minimum of 10 feet, and a change of building materials for each 30 feet of length along the street frontage shall be incorporated.

(d) Vertically mixed buildings shall provide articulation between commercial and residential levels by changing materials, color, intermediate cornice line, recesses, or roof decks that serve residential units.

(e) Buildings shall represent an architectural scale consistent with streetscape historic scale, forms, and proportions of buildings on the First Street historic district.

(f) Buildings, storefronts, entrances, and variations in height, modulation, color, and building material shall occur at 25-foot intervals.

(g) The commercial portions of mixed uses, which are vertically separated from the residential uses, shall have roofs that are compatible with residential structures.

(h) Gable and hipped roofs should have a minimum of six in 12 pitch. Flat roofs shall have articulated parapet walls.

(i) Mechanical equipment on the roofs shall be screened from view of adjacent residential units and the public street.

(j) The roofline should change by alternating dormers, stepped roofs, gables or other elements to reinforce the modulation or articulation interval.

(k) Repealed by Ord. 972.

(4) Site Plan Review.

(a) Purpose. The purpose of site plan approval shall be to assure that the site plan of the proposed development is compatible with adjacent zones and uses, and complies with the policies and regulations of the town of La Conner. Site plan elements subject to this section include, but are not limited to, site layout, building orientation, pedestrian and vehicular access, signage, landscaping, natural features on site, screening and buffering, parking and loading, and illumination. Site planning requires the horizontal and vertical arrangement of these elements to be compatible with the physical characteristics of the site and surrounding area. Site review does not include design review, which addresses the aesthetic considerations of architectural style, exterior treatment and space configuration. Site plan review should occur at the early stage of development when the scale, layout, and scope of a project are known.

(b) Intent.

(i) Ensure that new construction and additions respect the scale, forms and proportions of the Historic Preservation District;

(ii) To protect neighboring owners and uses by assuring that reasonable provisions have been made to ensure continuity with adjacent neighborhoods;

(iii) To promote orderliness of community growth and minimize discordant and undesirable impacts of development both on- and off-site;

(iv) To promote the coordination of public and quasi-public elements such as walkways, boardwalks, paths, driveways and landscaping with other development;

(v) To ensure convenience and safety of vehicular and pedestrian movement within the site and to adjacent properties;

(vi) To minimize conflicts that might otherwise be created by a mix of uses within the zone;

(vii) To supplement other land use regulations by addressing site plan elements not adequately covered elsewhere in the town code and avoid violating the intent and purpose of those codes.

(5) Review Criteria. The planning commission shall review and act upon site plans based upon total site considerations and the following criteria of this section. These criteria provide a frame of reference for the applicant to develop a site. They are not intended to be inflexible or discourage creativity and innovation.

(a) General Criteria.

(i) Conform to the goals and policies of the elements of the comprehensive plan;

(ii) Mitigate impacts to surrounding properties and uses;

(iii) Provide safe and efficient vehicle and pedestrian circulation.

(b) Specific Review Criteria.

(i) Commercial service and refuse areas shall be screened from view;

(ii) Multiple buildings on the same site should incorporate elements such as plazas, walkways, and landscaping along pedestrian pathways to provide a clear view of destinations;

(iii) The plan assures adequate public access to street rights-of-way and shoreline;

(iv) Parking space allocations should be sited to the sides and rear of the property to minimize impacts on streetscape;

(v) Consider placement and scale of proposed structures in relation to the adjacent properties and natural characteristics of the site to avoid over concentration or the impression of oversized structures;

(vi) Limit paved and impervious surfaces, where feasible, to reduce runoff.

(6) Applicability.

(a) Design Review.

(i) The provisions of the design review section shall apply to new construction, additions, or material change to the exterior appearance of all structures, and any new development within the Transitional Commercial Zone in the town of La Conner.

(ii) The provisions of this chapter shall apply in addition to those requirements of the underlying zoning district. In the event of a conflict between the underlying district and this chapter, the provisions of this chapter shall prevail.

(b) Site Plan Review. The provisions of the site plan review section shall apply to any site development activities that include new construction, additions that alter the building footprint, landscaping, street or road development, parking and pedestrian walkways.

(c) Exceptions.

(i) Interior remodels.1

(ii) Demolition.

(7) Review Procedures.

(a) Preapplication Conference with Planning Staff. Early preapplication conferences are encouraged to provide an indication of developers’ intentions and an opportunity for town staff to provide feedback to the applicant on design and site plan review issues.

(b) Sequence to Other Permit Activity. The planning commission, prior to shorelines review or any hearing examiner review, will conduct the design and site plan review simultaneously.

(c) Public Notice and Departmental Comment Period. The design and site plan review is a Type III permit activity and will require notice as per LCMC 15.135.110, Public notice requirements. Departmental heads will review and provide comment in preparation for the planning department reports to the planning commission.

(d) Revisions and Plan Modifications.

(i) Minor modifications may be reviewed for administrative determination by the planning director if the modifications:

(A) Involve less than 10 percent2 of the area or scale of the approved plan; or

(B) Do not have a significantly greater impact on the environment and facilities than approved; or

(C) Do not alter the boundaries or building footprints of the approved plans.

(ii) Major modifications involving more than 10 percent1 of the plan area or scale or that have a significant impact to the environment, facilities or boundaries must be reviewed and approved by the planning commission prior to modification of the original plan. [Ord. 972 § 3, 2006; Ord. 877 § 10, 2003.]

15.36.050 Dwelling unit density bonus.

Residential density bonuses may be added to allow the applicant to increase the number of residential units by providing enhanced public improvements beyond what the code presently requires. The addition of the enhanced public improvements serves to mitigate the adverse effects of increased residential density. To qualify for the density bonus, the applicant must include all of the site features below. If the following features are included in the development, the applicant may, subject to other applicable provisions of the UDC and other regulations, build up to an additional 10 dwelling units for a maximum of 36 dwelling units in the transitional zone. The following public amenities must be incorporated into the overall site plan to the satisfaction of the reviewing body:

(1) Improve shoreline public access areas with amenities such as sitting areas and plazas.

(2) Increase view corridors from upland areas to the shoreline.

(3) Provide and maintain public restrooms.

(4) Develop a public boardwalk along the shoreline for the length of the property.

(5) Add 7,000 square feet of open space plaza and/or recreational areas beyond the required setback and landscaping requirement. [Ord. 972 § 4, 2006; Ord. 877 § 11, 2003.]

15.36.060 Dimensional standards.

(1) Minimum lot size – None.

(2) Maximum lot size – None.

(3) Maximum lot coverage for buildings and impervious surfaces shall be 80 percent.

(4) Minimum landscaping area – 20 percent of the lot area.

(5) Minimum Building Setback.

(a) In the transitional commercial area, setbacks should conform to match setbacks for structures in the First Street commercial HPD to preserve and enhance the storefront character of the street. The historic relationship of the facade should be maintained.

(b) Access to the rear or secondary points of buildings along the front elevation should be avoided on First Street. Such access or entry points, if constructed, should enhance the building and street to maintain the continuity of the street scene.

(6) Maximum floor area shall be no more than two times the property area.

(7) Maximum Building Heights – 30 feet above the average lot grade determined by averaging the lowest and highest existing elevation points on the lot to the highest point of the roof. Exception: In the 100-year floodplain, the height may be measured 30 feet from the finished lot grade at base flood elevation of eight feet plus one foot above mean sea level to the highest point of the roof, provided:

(a) The building shall not exceed three stories;

(b) Residential portions of commercial buildings shall have quick-response sprinkler heads;

(c) For one- and two-story buildings with residential uses, the sprinkler system for the residential portion shall comply with NFPA 13R. The remainder of the structure shall comply with NFPA 13;

(d) If any occupied portion of the structure is over two stories, the entire building shall comply with NFPA 13;

(e) The sprinkler system shall be centrally monitored;

(f) Eave height shall not exceed 30 feet from grade unless the building has multiple roof access platforms, as approved by the La Conner fire chief, for roof ladder access at or below 30 feet;

(g) Roofs shall be constructed of noncombustible materials.

(8) Awning/Canopies. Awnings/canopies shall have a minimum of eight feet clearance from the ground.

(9) The side yard setbacks within the shoreline area shall be, in combination, equal to 25 percent of the property width, but such calculation may include any “view corridors” in the shoreline area. Development features enhancing east and west view corridors may be considered, in part, to satisfy side yard setback requirements. Side yard setbacks outside of the shoreline area shall be consistent with the adjoining Commercial Zone.

(10) Landscaping, at maturity, within a view corridor shall not exceed four feet in height.

(11) Buildings over 3,000 square feet gross floor area shall be designed to have the appearance of multiple buildings characteristic of First Street HPD buildings, including separate entrances, storefronts, and variation in height. [Ord. 989 § 4, 2007; Ord. 986 § 8, 2007; Ord. 972 § 5, 2006; Ord. 877 § 12, 2003.]

15.36.070 Nonconforming structures and change of use in the Transitional Commercial Zone.

Nonconforming structures within the shoreline area may continue in form, and may be reconfigured to alternate uses consistent with required building codes in any manner which does not expand the extent of nonconformity of the size of the structure, consistent with the definition of “nonconforming structures” in the shoreline master program and to achieve uses consistent with the Transitional Commercial Zone and the shoreline master program for the shoreline area. [Ord. 989 § 3, 2007.]


Change of use or expansion of uses require permitting and planning department review.


Within two years.