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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Call To Order:

Chairman Glick called the regularly scheduled Design Commission meeting to order at 7:42 PM in the Council Chambers, 9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, Washington. 


Roll Call:

Chairman Fred Glick, Bryan Caditz, Marcia Dawson, Callie Ridolfi, and Vice-Chairman Norman Sandler were present.  Commissioner Carl Bryant was absent.  Commissioner George Wittman arrived at 7:44pm.


Staff Present:

Richard Hart, Development Services Director and Shelley Krueger, Associate Planner.



Vice-Chair Sandler moved, Commissioner Dawson seconded, to approve the minutes of April 14th, 2004.  The minutes were approved by a vote of 6-0.


Regular Business:


(1)  Study Session (No action to be taken): The applicant, Craft Architects for Wells Fargo Bank, proposes to construct a 1,136 square foot addition to the existing 4,992 square foot Wells Fargo Bank in the Town Center.  The addition will be added to the east side of the building and require the removal of five parking spaces and landscaping.  The applicant proposes to replace four of the parking stalls and landscaping on other areas of the lot.


Chairman Glick introduced the project and asked for a staff report. 


Shelley Krueger, Associate Planner for Development Services, summarized the staff report.  Ms. Krueger noted that this is a Study Session and is intended to provide the applicant with direction before final design approval.  Because the proposal is considered a minor exterior modification, the applicant only needs to receive final design review approval from the Design Commission.  The purpose of the Study Session is for the Commissioners to make suggestions and the community to have an opportunity to comment on the design of the project. 


Ms. Krueger described the project regarding site design, existing conditions, landscaping, and details of the proposed addition.  She explained the responsiveness of the design to the existing site conditions, specifically the continued use of the trellis and relocation of the mature Japanese Maple.


Ms. Krueger then explained the criteria for review, including the issue of nonconformance.  The site currently does not conform to Town Center zoning because of the parking that surrounds the building.  The threshold for conformance is a project that exceeds 50% of the assessed value of the structure.  Staff has decided to prepare a code interpretation to reflect the intent of the code, and use 50% of the highest ever assessed value for the structure.  This project is just under 50% of the Wells Fargo building’s highest ever assessed value and for that reason will be considered a minor exterior modification.  Only additions will need to conform to MICC. 


Ms. Krueger went on to discuss other design criteria.  Major points included the fact that the proposal exceeds landscape standards and attention has been paid to the context of the design in relation to existing site amenities.  Concerns include the proposed flat roof that does not match the existing hip roof and the proposed parking that does not meet minimum parking standards recommended by the Code Official (mid range of four stalls per 1,000 square feet of building).  Staff recommended that the applicant redesign the roof to include a hip roof, meet the Code Official determined minimum parking standard, and provide a traffic study from a traffic engineer that discusses the one-way configuration and/or the reduced parking stalls. 


Chairman Glick then invited comment from the applicant. 


Kathy Craft of Craft Architects at 2111 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA, presented the proposal for Wells Fargo.  Ms. Craft handed out revised site plans to staff and the Design Commission that reflected increased parking to meet the Code Official determined minimum standards. 


Ms. Craft went explained the revisions, including the reduction of landscaping for parking spaces, the one-way circulation on the south side of the site, and the design of the addition.  She explained that the presence of the trellis was intended to mimic the hip roof design of the existing building without causing undue cost and closure of the bank.  A hip roof would be more complicated than a flat roof and may require bank closure for one to two weeks. 


Tom Dawes, Wells Fargo representative, who resides at 121 Vine St in Seattle WA, clarified that the bank may not be closed for more than three days by law, but a hip roof would mean the bank would need to operate from a temporary location and/or wall off part of the bank during construction.


Commissioners asked if the applicants had received a definitive statement from a contractor stating that the bank would need to close for this period of time.  The applicants said no.


Commissioner comments also addressed the placement of parking on the south side of the lot.  Concerns included disruption of current informal pedestrian paths through the site that utilize this area.  The addition of parking in this area could cause conflicts between cars and pedestrians.  Also important was to maintain existing planting areas on the west side of the lot.  The proposal included removing some of this area to meet parking requirements. 


Commissioners also commented that a hip roof could be easily achieved on the addition without bank closure or safety issues during construction.  Suggestions included overframing the addition roof to meet a ridgeline of the existing roof.  This would allow the addition to reflect existing conditions and match the existing structure when viewed from below or above by adjacent apartments and condominiums.  Creating a ridgeline slightly lower than existing would also add prominence to the existing entrance.  Suggestions for design also included setting windows deeper into the façade to give depth to the addition and mimic the effect of the entrance.


Commissioners appreciated the trellis and would like to see options to retain the trellis and add a hip roof to the proposed addition. 


Commissioners suggested the parking issue could be resolved by adding parking to the north side of the lot to preserve the informal pedestrian circulation on the south side of the lot.  In this case, landscaping should be retained on the south side of the lot.  The applicant also has the option of a traffic study demonstrating that less parking stalls will be sufficient.  A traffic study is also needed to show that changing from two-way vehicle circulation to one-way will not be detrimental. 


Richard Hart, Development Services Director, explained that the number of four stalls to 1,000 square feet of gross floor area is standard for financial institutions.  As the Code Official, he uses this number to determine adequate parking.  However, the applicant has the option to prove that less parking is needed through a traffic study. 


There was no public comment on this project.


The Commission recommended the following changes to the design before the applicant returns for design approval:

·         Add a hip roof to the design

·         Explore potential for a combination of hip roof and trellis on the addition

·         Sink the windows in on the façade to mimic existing conditions in the building and give depth to the addition

·         Obtain a traffic study and propose appropriate changes to parking, circulation, and resulting landscaping




Council Liaison Report:

There was no Council Liaison report.


Director’s Comments:

Richard Hart, Development Services Director, briefed the Commissioners on the Outside Town Center Design regulations:

  • City Council has had concerns regarding the level of design review outside the Town Center and length of landscape standards; as a result, they took no action at the last Council meeting, but instead decided to hold a Study Session to examine the proposed regulations
  • Mr. Hart invited the Design Commission to attend the first study session on Monday, May 19th. 
  • Mr. Hart will also send an electronic copy of the proposed ordinance to all the Commissioners
  • First and second City Council readings will be held in June or July.


Fred Glick and Marcia Dawson replied that they believe the landscape section of the proposed ordinance is too long and confusing and would like to see the numeric standards removed.  Mr. Hart noted their comments and replied that staff feels performance standards are not enough and some development standards are necessary.  



Next Regular Meeting:

The next Design Commission meeting is scheduled for June 9th at 7:30 PM.


Commissioner Absences:

All Commissioners indicated that they could attend the next meeting.


Adjournment:  8:55 PM.


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