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Moses Lake updating development code

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | June 10, 2024 3:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake City Council and Moses Lake Planning Commission will meet for a workshop on the proposed updates to the city’s development code at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. It’s part of an ongoing process to review the existing code and make revisions where necessary.

Planning Commission Chair Nathan Nofziger said the commissioners have been working on it for about a year, focusing on it the last three to four months. It hasn’t been reviewed as a whole for a long time, he said.

“Over the years we’ve gone in and tweaked sections of it,” he said.

The result has been regulations that don’t always line up with each other.

“In the current code we have conflicts,” Nofziger said. 

Council member Dustin Swartz said it’s been more difficult to do a project in Moses Lake than it needs to be as a result.

Swartz said the development code — and reviewing it as a result — is important, more than it might look like at first.

“This reflects the desire of the city residents about how they want their city to look and operate,” he said. “It’s a rule book, but this is the game of life.”

A copy of the draft update is available on the city’s website, www.cityofml.com. Nofziger said people can comment via email, which he said helps keep a record of responses. 

As the name suggests development regulations include rules for pretty much anything landowners can and can’t do with their land.

Nofziger cited the example of a landowner with property near Interstate 90 who is thinking about building a hotel. The code will have regulations governing where the building could be located on the property, how tall it could be, how many parking spaces would be required, among other things. 

The development code also ensures that land use is compatible with the pieces of property around it. Nofziger cited Wheeler Road near I-90, which has a lot of industry in that area, a few smaller businesses, but no residences.

“It provides the guidelines on what can go where,” he said.

Nofzier said the development code only applies to future development, or if landowners want to make changes to an existing building. 

Where businesses and residential areas do run into each other, the development code is designed to provide buffers to minimize the impact of one use on another. 

The code includes city standards for street design, recreation space requirements, standards for new residential and commercial development, environmental regulations and standards for protecting critical areas. 

A little closer to street level, there are chapters on fencing and signs, home-based businesses, marijuana and cryptocurrency businesses, RV parks and short-term rentals (also known as vacation rentals).

Since the city regulations must conform with state law, the planning commission is working on regulations for different types of housing, some of which must be allowed in places where they were prohibited previously. Nofziger cited accessory dwelling units, which must be allowed in all residential zones. Previously they weren’t allowed in areas zoned for single-family houses (R1). New state regulations also require duplexes, triplexes, and four-family options in R1 zones. 

The draft proposal is subject to change, and Swartz said he expects that.

“I think it’ll change significantly before we’re done,” he said. 

Swartz said city council members want to ensure the revised code will address the issues that have been raised. 

“We want to make sure all the puzzle pieces fit together,” he said. 

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

    The skeleton of a commercial building in Moses Lake gets exterior walls. Commercial development regulations are under review as part of updating the city’s development code.