City council approves major changes to landscaping regulations

Published on Wed, Nov 16, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Potential developers in Blaine have a new set of landscaping regulations to follow after a Blaine City Council vote Monday night.

The council voted 5-1, with council member John Liebert opposed, to pass a resolution that rewrites the city’s landscaping code. Council member Alan Black was absent from the meeting.

Blaine community planner Alex Wenger said planning staff have been working on changes to the city’s landscaping code since city staff gathered public input on ways to increase development in Blaine’s downtown area. Through discussions during the summer, planning staff identified several contradictions between the citywide landscaping code and the downtown design regulations.

To remedy this, planning staff proposed changes to the downtown design regulations and a complete overhaul of the citywide
landscaping code. Wenger brought the proposed changes to the city council Monday night after a Blaine Planning Commission recommendation of council approval earlier in October.

One of the most significant changes is the city’s ability to monitor the quality of a section of landscaping if complaints have been lodged by surrounding property owners.

Failure on the part of the property owner to repair the dead or dying landscaping within 30 days after the city’s notification could result in a fine of up to $250. Wenger said this process would be completely complaint-driven since city planning staff do not have the resources to scrutinize landscaping throughout the city.

City council member Harry Robinson said he had an issue with language in the new landscaping code that requires a landscaped area to be kept clear of weeds. He said that was an unreasonable expectation of a given property owner and didn’t think the city should be policing landscaping. Wenger clarified that language was also in the old landscaping code and that the city has not historically made a point of policing landscaping.

The city council approved two sets of changes: those that are downtown-area specific and those that apply citywide.
In the downtown area, the new code removes the landscaping requirements when there is no setback between a building and its property line. It also removes the 20-foot evergreen landscaping buffer that was previously required between a proposed commercial development and an existing home.

The new code also requires landscaping of utility boxes and areas not built upon on a given property and mandates that parking lots facing the street have 5 feet of landscaped area between the sidewalk and the parking spaces.

Citywide landscaping changes include language that requires irrigation systems for new commercial and multifamily developments. The new code also reduces the amount of landscaping required for manufacturing properties since the current requirements called for landscaping in areas, such as the rear of a manufacturing building, where it most likely would not be seen.

Other citywide changes included landscaping buffers between a multifamily resident and an existing single family residence and landscaping buffers along the boundaries of dissimilar zoning districts.

Click here to see the full code along with comments from city planning staff (it's a large PDF file).