Oroville will consider increase in building heights

OROVILLE – Among the items discussed at the Tuesday, Oct. 7 meeting of the Oroville City Council was increasing the limit on the height of commercial buildings within the city limits.

The city has been looking at whether an increase in building height from 35 feet is feasible for some time, according to Chris Branch, Oroville’s city planner. Branch said the new height under consideration is 50 feet, which would allow property owners in the commercially zoned parts of town the option of getting more from their land by building up, rather than out.

“Currently the height is 35 feet. We have quite a bit of commercial property on the highway, but most is unavailable for development. The height restriction limits those who want to actually develop their property within the commercial zone,” said Branch.

The planner went on to emphasize that the city had been considering the change long before a developer had announced plans to build a motel in town.

“Steve Morberg, who has proposed building the motel, did not ask for the change in the height limits, it is something the planning commission and the city had already had under discussion,” said Branch.

In Morberg’s case, increasing the height would help him put in more rooms within a smaller footprint so adequate parking could be had on the rest of the land. If approved, buildings could be as high as 50 feet, but would still be limited to four floors, Branch said.

“During these hearings will we be addressing the issue of fire safety?” asked Mayor Chuck Spieth.

“It would probably require a new truck,” he added.

“Well, no. The way the new codes are written and due to the new safety features required, a new truck would probably not be required,” said Branch.

Councilman Tony Keopke said the city would still probably need taller ladders and would face the issue that these taller ladders would not fit on the current trucks.

“Already when we need a 35 foot ladder we still have to go back to the hall to get it,” said Keopke, who serves on Oroville’s volunteer fire department.

Branch said a second issue to be discussed at the planning commission hearing would be setbacks for commercial property. The current 20 yard setback may change to a smaller amount, according to Branch.

“I feel we are going to need some education for the people that live next to commercial zones, especially on the south end of town, because people could suddenly find themselves next to a 50 foot tall building,” said Councilman Ed Naillon, a former member of the Oroville Planning Commission.

Branch said the hearing process will give people an opportunity to comment on whether they feel the changes in the commercial zones are desirable.

“I know there are other communities out there looking at how to make development work in a compact manner,” Branch said.

A third proposal to be taken up by the planning commission is one that would allow apartment buildings in the downtown zone, but living areas would be limited to the upper floors leaving the ground floor for retail business, according to Branch.

The Oroville Planning Commission meets next on Wednesday, Oct. 15 in the city council chambers at 4:30 p.m. The hearing on raising the height restrictions on commercial properties in C-1, C-2 and C3; defining the upper floor residential use in apartments in the C-1 and C-2 zone and front yard setbacks in C-2 will take place at 5 p.m.

On a related matter, Mayor Spieth appointed Mark Egerton to the open full time position on the planning commission. Councilwoman Neysa Roley made a motion to accept the appointment. Councilman Walt Hart III seconded the motion and Egerton was approved.

“What gets the planning commission’s attention is when there’s a person out in the audience that is actually concerned with their decisions,” said Branch, thanking the mayor and council for their choice.

In other business, Branch said he was contacted by Pat Arnold of the state Department of Transportation regarding several signs on city property that were not in compliance with the Scenic Vista Act. These signs are along the highway and Branch recommended those who own the signs be contacted to have them removed.

“One is on the city’s North End Water User’s property and a couple are on trucks,” said Branch.

The planner added that new state motor information signs will be installed showing Eden Valley Guest Ranch.

“These are the brown signs you see along the highway that show things like accommodation. The business on the sign must pay for them,” said Branch.

Rod Noel, superintendent of the city’s public works department, reported that there had been an increase in vandalism around town.

“There has been quite a bit of vandalism with our signs,” said Noel, who added that the new sign at Bud Clark Memorial Ball Fields had been broken twice.

Other sings that have been damaged or stolen include city limits and bridge signs, he said.

“We are looking at quite an expense to replace them. Evidently this stuff is going on late at night,” said Supt. Noel.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are the Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He is single with a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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