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Working with WWU students for downtown planning to be on next City Council agenda

Traffic flows westbound through downtown Ferndale (April 12, 2017). Photo: My Ferndale News

The Finance and Administration Council Committee heard from City of Ferndale staff this morning about a proposed contract with Western Washington University (WWU) to develop new ideas for ways to revitalize the historic Ferndale downtown area.

City staff brought to the councilmembers a 6-month contract with WWU for their Sustainable Communities Partnership Program (SCPP) at Huxley College’s Urban Planning Studio to develop ideas for future planning for the Ferndale downtown area. The contract would commit the city for up to $21,000. City staff said, they expect to receive reports of professional consultant quality as a result of the contracted services but at a fraction of the overall cost of a consultant as a result of this partnership.

Ferndale would not be the SCPP’s first client. Over the past 3 years they have worked with the City of Edmonds, the City of Stanwood, and Skagit County according to SCPP Coordinator Lindsey MacDonald. Under the program, students, usually juniors and seniors and under the guidance of Urban Planning Studio staff, will (as per the proposed contract):

  • research other jurisdictions’ downtown design regulations, compare those to Ferndale’s current code, and develop recommendations for code revisions
  • evaluate current conditions, community goals and policies, community preferences, infill development feasibility, and urban planning principles and practices, in order to develop a series of planning alternatives to guide the infill development in Ferndale’s city center
  • with community input (from a public community meeting) and planning department guidance, address the following strategies for implementing planning concepts: regulatory reforms, development incentives, public and private investment opportunities, mobility improvement and implementation issues, and phased development plan

Ferndale City Councilmember and Committee Chair Keith Olson summarized the City’s past efforts to encourage development downtown over the past 10 years by pointing out that they (the City and Council) have waived fees and, more recently, waived property taxes after one builder said they would do 4 projects in return. In response, City Administrator Jori Burnett said, “So far, yes, we haven’t gotten a bunch [of building applications]. We’ve gotten a lot of interest and a lot of properties have changed hands but we have not yet got any applications.”

The committee voted to bring the proposal to the entire council for discussion and a vote at the next regular City Council Meeting on Tuesday, January. MacDonald will attend to make a presentation and answer any questions from the councilmembers and the community.

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