The Washington city reformed its zoning code to support more multifamily development and a diversity of housing types to meet the needs of its growing population.
With their town surrounded by valuable agricultural land, officials in Walla Walla, Washington are particularly attuned to the need to rein in sprawl and encourage smart growth as the population grows. As Patrick Sisson explains in Planning Magazine, when it came time to update the city’s comprehensive plan, the city’s planners worked to reform and streamline complicated, outdated zoning codes and support more density and multifamily development.
“The answer was Neighborhood Residential (RN), a near-universal residential zoning designation that allows builders to go as dense as 75 units per acre, given that they still meet existing standards like landscaping, height, setbacks, parking, and lot coverage.” The city also updated regulations for accessory dwelling units (ADUs), eliminating owner-occupied restrictions and raising the size limit.
Sisson’s article details the changes, the process of getting them approved, and the positive reactions from many residents and builders. While Sisson admits that “So far, the numbers aren't showing a dramatic change,” due to the pandemic, there is some progress, and “developers have begun investing in new types of projects, including apartment complexes and conversions of motels into affordable housing.” According to Sisson, the city is also considering expanding a tax incentive for multifamily housing and creating a community land trust.
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