Town Council debates building code changes that would allow more variances

Town Council debates building code changes that would allow more variances

Town Council debates building code changes that would allow more variances

An otherwise smooth meeting became slightly contentious when the Eatonville Town Council discussed changes to the city’s building code.

The last three items on the Nov. 13 agenda all concerned modifications to the city’s building codes and were presented by Acting Town Planner Scott Clark.

The first sought to update storm water management standards to more closely align with those of surrounding districts.  The second modified the code for single-family residences to require landscaping on the frontage between a house’s foundation and the adjoining curb or sidewalk.  As currently written, no such landscaping requirement exists.

The third, and apparently the most contentious item based on the length of discussions that followed it, concerned proposed modifications that would give planning administrators greater latitude in granting minor deviations in issuing building permits.  These would pertain to matters such as garage widths and setbacks, and would be based upon both common best practices of neighboring jurisdictions as well as the particular circumstances of each case.  Currently, builders are instead required to go through the full formal variance process with the Board of Adjustment – a process that even Mayor Mike Schaub acknowledged can be costly and time-consuming, and perhaps not always necessary.

The proposal provoked vehement opposition by Councilmember Robert Thomas who feared it could potentially undermine the council’s authority by allowing unelected civil servants to issue building approvals in violation of city code. He was particularly concerned by its possible effect on the town’s Aerospace District, despite assurances from the others that any such impacts were, in their opinion, highly unlikely.

The proposal passed with Thomas casting the lone “nay” vote.


Ordinance 2018-9 was unanimously approved, restoring the town’s ability to collect property taxes at the full rate permitted by state law. Ordinance 2018-10 was likewise approved, regarding collection of taxes for emergency medical services – a levy similar in scope and purpose to the recently passed Proposition 2, but applicable solely to Eatonville residents as opposed to those elsewhere in the fire district. Neither received any public comment.

Fire Chief Lloyd Galey discussed how the apparent passage of Propositions 1 and 2 on the recent ballot will provide much needed funding to maintain fire department operations and desired staffing levels.

As of Monday, Nov. 13, ballot counts in Pierce County showed Proposition 1 will be approved by 50.56 percent of the vote, or 4,063 votes, and Proposition 2 will be approved by 53.24 percent, or 4,275 votes. Initially on Election Day, it seemed that Proposition 1 would fail, but a small margin of votes in support of the levy approved the proposal over the weekend.

Galey also touched on response times, mentioning how crews will occasionally arrive at the scene of an automated fire alarm in an ambulance instead of a fire engine if responding directly from a previous call, saving the time of having to first return to the station to change vehicles.


Leading off the meeting, Police Chief Brian Witt discussed recent reports of wild bears roaming through town and rummaging through residents’ garbage cans. He’s been advised by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife that all bears should be entering hibernation within the coming weeks, so the problem should soon subside.

A report by the town administrator, Abby Gribi included renderings of designs for new decorative banners, which will be hung around town prior to the annual Christmas Parade.

She also discussed the popularity of recently offered energy efficiency kits, calling the program “surprisingly successful.”

The Council, pleased with the program’s success and looking to expand upon it, subsequently voted to increase the current funding cap from $10,000 to $15,000 out of a total of $72,000 in funds provided every two years by the Bonneville Power Administration to promote energy conservation.

Councilmember Bob Walter gave an update on parks and recreation and recent discussions of building a municipal campground within town limits. He conveyed how residents on its advisory panel had expressed a number of concerns relating to the proposal. They also expressed a general desire to see more trees planted and open space preserved.

Moving on to public safety, Councilmember Bill Dunn presented a draft ordinance regarding camping in public spaces. He also discussed a proposal to limit parking along Rainier Avenue to only one side of the street to improve traffic flows. Acknowledging that this might inconvenience some residents, he advised a public hearing be held on the matter.

Next, Councilmember Thomas spoke of the Airport Committee and its recommendation that signage be installed at the south end of the airport warning non-authorized personnel to “stay off runway.”

Doing so would better align the town with Federal Aviation Administration standards as well as increase the efficacy of police citations issued to trespassers on airport property. Chief Witt concurred, citing a recent incident of two individuals allegedly drag racing down the runway.

A motion to adopt the proposed 2019 budget, which will be subject to public hearing at the next council meeting, was approved.

The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday Nov. 26.


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