Slopes ordinance changes delayed

Work on the city’s contentious slopes ordinance was again delayed on

Wednesday, after extended discussion of other matters at the City Council

meeting left too little time for it.

Councilors considered moving the item to next Monday’s special council meeting,

and even discussed sending it back to committee, before instead slating it

for the council’s next regular meeting on Oct. 10.

The city last year amended the Geologically Hazardous section of the

Critical Areas Ordinance, adding a variance requirement for development in

unstable areas. The goal of the change was to improve safety, but planners,

geotechnical experts and some property owners say the new rules are too

restrictive and are tying up construction in areas that would pass scientific

safety tests.

The council is working on a new set of revisions – including removing the variance requirement – to maintain public safety while freeing up stalled projects.

Property owners living near slopes say they worry about

their safety and whether it be compromised in favor of development. They

disagree with several of the new revisions, including the ways in which

projects would be reviewed and the science on which the ordinance is based.

Questions also have been raised about the revision process.

Some property owners think it has moved too slow, needlessly delaying their

remodels; others believe it’s being rushed through without a thorough enough


The council in July voted unanimously to send the ordinance back to the Land

Use Committee. That meeting was scheduled to happen last week, before the

city canceled all committee meetings indefinitely due to ongoing scheduling


City Administrator Mary Jo Briggs said those issue have since been resolved,

meaning committee work can now resume.

Near the end of Wednesday’s meeting, councilors struggled with how to

proceed. Councilman Kjell Stoknes said he didn’t want to rush to finish the

work, since it’s a matter of public safety.

“I’m not in a hurry to get this done,” he said.

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