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Council, board to review height measures

By Staff
By MIKE VOSS, Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council and Planning Board are scheduled to meet at 4:30 p.m. today to discuss height rules for new construction in all of the city’s zoning districts, including the city’s waterfront.
That discussion could result in changes to existing height regulations for new construction in the city.
As the result of underway and proposed development projects in the city, council members are keeping an eye on proposed development, especially on or near the city’s waterfront. Those developments included interest by developers in developing existing rooftops on downtown buildings.
The city also is considering whether adjusting its height restriction on new buildings along its waterfront may be required to protect its waterfront skyline. An existing ordinance requires that a new building in the downtown area be no more than 95 feet high. Some people want to change the ordinance so that maximum height for a building on the waterfront is considerably less than 95 feet.
Several development projects — ongoing or proposed — along the city’s waterfront have resulted in some people voicing concerns that new buildings, if they are several stories high, would interfere or destroy existing views of the river from places more inland than the developments. Others are worried that rooftop additions to existing buildings could also interrupt views or adversely change the city’s skyline.
In the autumn of 2006, the City Council imposed a moratorium on rooftop development in the areas included in the city’s business-historic (B1H) zone. That moratorium expired Jan. 8. When they implemented the moratorium in October 2006, the council and mayor said placing a moratorium on rooftop development in the areas included in the city’s business-historic zone would give the council and mayor time to study how such development could affect the city’s effort to protect the city’s history and historical buildings from inappropriate development and support appropriate economic-development opportunities at the same time.
Bobby Roberson, the city’s director of planning and development, wants the meeting between the two bodies to accomplish several things.
Some coastal communities measure height from the ground up, he said. Other coastal communities use other criteria when determining a building’s height, Roberson added.
Roberson also wants to use the meeting as a forum to provide the council and board exact heights of buildings in the city’s central business district. He also wants the two bodies to look at regulating the height of buildings that front the Pamlico-Tar River.
Although the B1H zone rules restrict a building’s height to no more than 95 feet, an overlay zone for the central business district in the B1H zone takes precedent over the B1H zone regulations, according to Roberson. That’s resulted in no commercial structure in that overlay zone being higher than 65 feet, Roberson said. As for the Moss Landing residential project, those structures will be no higher than 75 feet, he added.