Machine shop owner claims inconsistencies
Twisp residents anticipating the long-awaited new rules establishing minimum house sizes will need to keep waiting.
Town leaders have been working for the past year to set lower limits on house sizes and change minimum lot sizes, in order to accommodate more affordable housing in ways that aren’t too displeasing to neighbors.
While they were at it, the town’s planning commissioners proposed an extensive set of secondary changes to the zoning code, including a new list of manufacturing and industrial uses. The proposed code revisions indicate which neighborhoods permit each manufacturing or industrial use—everything from acid manufacturers to wineries.
But the heart of the proposed revisions was the new residential standards. These would include a minimum house size of 950 square feet in low-density neighborhoods, with houses as small as 360 square feet allowed in multi-family zones.
The Planning Commission handed off the rule changes to the Town Council in December, and the council was primed to approve them, finally, on May 14.
But resident Mark Edson spoke up at that evening’s meeting to point out inconsistencies in the proposed zoning code that he said would jeopardize his business. Edson owns Methow Valley Industrial, a welding and machine shop in town.
Edson said “gas manufacturing or storage facilities,” one of the new manufacturing and industrial uses added to the code, would be prohibited everywhere in town. Edson said he considered his business a gas storage facility because he has on hand about 100 canisters of gases, including oxygen, acetylene and carbon dioxide, which he sells locally as a distributor for Norco Enterprises.
“That means that North Cascades Propane [on Cascade Drive] is no longer in compliance because they store gas,” Edson told council. “All of the welding shops store gas.” Edson even mentioned that the dentist across the street from Town Hall stores oxygen and nitrous oxide.
Twisp’s zoning code defines hundreds of terms, so residents may know exactly what is meant by a particular use or by other words in the code.
While the Planning Commission in its revisions added definitions for “server farm” and “storage container,” among others, it didn’t define any of the new uses it listed under manufacturing and industrial.
If Edson or anyone else wanted to know what a “gas manufacturing or storage facility” was, according to the town of Twisp, they wouldn’t find an answer in the code.
Edson also pointed out that “machine shop” appears twice in the use chart, with different restrictions for that use, depending on which line is consulted.
Town Council accepted Edson’s point and sent the code revisions back to the Planning Commission, so it could address the inconsistencies Edson brought to light. The Planning Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for June 12.
Twisp Planning Director Kurt Danison said in an interview by email that the two references to “machine shop” would be an easy fix.
As for gas storage facilities, Danison said the missing definitions aren’t needed and suggested that Edson doesn’t have anything to worry about regarding his business.
“A machine shop that uses or sells gas, or a dentist that uses gas are not considered ‘gas manufacturing or storage facilities’ because that is not their primary business,” Danison said.
Uses in the zoning code that aren’t defined, Danison added, default to the “commonly accepted definition,” common sense or the regulations for a similar use.