Boards tackle building heights

Published 2:20 am Saturday, May 19, 2007

By Staff
Expected to forward their suggestions to the City Council
Contributing Editor
In their efforts to determine the appropriate heights of new buildings in Washington, two city bodies first must determine the definition of building height.
Washington’s Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission are holding joint meetings to determine that definition and come up with rules to regulate heights of new buildings in the city. The two entities resume their work at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The problem with determining the height of a new building is there are several ways to do that, city officials said. Board members and commission members received documents that provide information on those ways. They include the following:
The two bodies want to find building-height rules that will protect the city, or at least certain parts of the city, such as its Historic District, from its skyline being changed drastically by tall buildings. In the past year or so, as development projects that include buildings from seven to 12 stories tall have emerged in the city and county, area residents and others have expressed concerns about buildings they consider too tall.
Washington’s City Council asked the Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission to address the issue and develop proposed building-height rules for the council to consider implementing in the city.
Roberson weighed in on how to determine a building’s height. He said the best way to determine that is to measure from the ground to the top of the building.
The board and commission debated whether to have one set of rules for the Historic District and another set of rules for the rest of the city. They also debated whether to limit a residential building’s height to a specific measurement such as 35 feet and limit the height of a commercial building to 50 feet. There was some talk about setting the height of any new building to a certain measurement.
The board and commission made no decision on those items. Members were asked to bring recommendations on those issues when they meet Wednesday.
Historic Preservation Commission member Charles S. Major said building-height rules are needed to “protect the integrity of the Historic District.”
John Rodman, another city planner, said there’s another reason the building-height issue has become a hot topic.
The board and commission both indicated they would like the public to provide input as they develop suggestions to forward to the council.