Monroe City Council correcting costly code glitch

The Monroe City Council adopted an emergency ordinance last week that could help pave the way for a new downtown Monroe business.

The emergency ordinance corrects a glitch found in Chapter 20.12 of the Monroe Municipal Code relating to transportation impact fees. It was initially considered on Tuesday, March 22, but not enough councilmembers were present to vote under the provisions of emergency ordinance passage. The passage of an emergency ordinance requires a supermajority, meaning at least five councilmembers must vote in favor.

With all councilmembers present for the agenda item on Tuesday, April 5, it passed unanimously.

The issue was brought to the attention of Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas by prospective business owner Sharina McCrain, who is interested in opening a coffee and dessert house at 115 W. Main St., in the former Monroe Monitor building.

When she went to the city to initiate the permitting process, she was told she would have to pay a $10,500 transportation impact fee.

McCrain was told the fee was triggered because of her intent to transition the space from a retail establishment to a caf+¬, which is referred to as a "change in use of an existing building or dwelling unit.GÇ¥ After the Monroe Monitor relocated, the space at 115 W. Main St. housed RD Sportswear, a Monroe Bearcats-themed sports apparel boutique.

An unexpected $10,500 fee would have killed her dream before it even got started, McCrain said.

Thomas said he felt it was important to bring to the council's attention, particularly in light of its recent efforts to revitalize downtown.

"It would be a change in use from a retail establishment that was selling clothing to a coffee house,GÇ¥ Thomas said on March 22. "The change in use would have resulted in a payment of about $10,000 in transportation impact fees.GÇ¥

Transportation impact fees are meant to ensure that developers pay for the increased wear and tear on city roadways spurred by new development activity in the city. Public Works Director Brad Feilberg explained the fee was an unintended consequence of the city's recently adopted transportation plan and updated fee schedule, and the emergency ordinance could be implemented as a corrective measure.

Under current municipal code, the definition of development activity includes "any change in use of a building or structure,GÇ¥ which is what was presenting McCrain with a $10,500 price tag.

"This is an attempt to fix that,GÇ¥ Feilberg said.

The ordinance removes the "change in useGÇ¥ provision from the code and adds an additional safeguard to make the policy more robust.

An emergency ordinance was selected as the best course of action, because it would allow the policy to take effect immediately, as opposed to a potential 90-day delay if passed through the Monroe Planning Commission in the traditional way. Emergency ordinances still go through the planning commission, but can take effect immediately once passed

McCrain is still in the process of conducting a feasibility study on the space. She is well-known for serving coffee beverages at Sharinabean's inside the Sky River Medical Center, and also operates Sharinabean's mobile espresso vending service, which has operated during city-sponsored events like the Easter egg hunt and Seahawks rally. Sharinabean's was a frequent vendor at last year's Farm to Table Farmer's Market.

Her vision for the space at 115 W. Main St. is a coffee and dessert house that caters to families. Sharinabean's on Main will offer Wi-Fi, an area for people to work or study, a toddler area and a rental room for meetings, birthday parties or game nights.

"I am hoping to have live music at least once a month and family date nights where kids can be in the "meeting room' having a supervised party, while the parents are having a date night in the front caf+¬ area,GÇ¥ McCrain said. "Everything focused on a family-friendly setting.GÇ¥


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