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City of Prineville considering a building design review code

by: KATE WENNERSTROM/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Buildings in downtown Prineville, like the one at left, show the architectural stonework and craftsmanship which epitomizes the suggested look of the new design code currently being drafted.

The City of Prineville is hoping that a new design review code currently being drafted will highlight visual elements currently seen in some of the downtown commercial buildings.
   "We're trying to take the good parts of Prineville and follow up on the mission statement for our comprehensive plan, which was basically to keep the character of the community, but to improve upon it wherever we can," said City of Prineville Community Development Director Ricky Sites.
   "There are some existing buildings that are wonderful. The historical buildings and the ones that have been built from the rocks quarried from the rim. It's not to change the character of Prineville. It is basically to consolidate the good ideas that are existing in Prineville and carry that out wherever we have a new commercial investment or something of that nature," Sites said.
   The expectations associated with the code will cause new and significantly renovated buildings to adhere to the standards of aesthetics, presently being determined by study groups.
   "We don't want the big box type buildings on our commercial areas with a flat front and no windows," Sites continued. "It's basically to give them the same kind of character that you'll see on many of the buildings we have downtown right now, which is maybe an arched window with a stone fa‡ade around it. It kind of breaks up the long monotone surfaces, architecturally. So we'll be looking at those kinds of things."
   Design codes are commonly found in most Oregon cities, with the code's influence taking precedence over generic designs, even those used by mainstream chain stores.
   "It's dressing up the commercial areas," Sites added. "I think all of us would be kind of offended if people brought in some of the bright franchise colors or something in the downtown area and even our strip zones."
   With each city outlining their own code, differences can be as subtle or extreme as the code intends. As an example, the town of Sisters has established a theme into their design code, something the City of Prineville is shying away from.
   "This is Prineville - people do whatever suits their neighborhood or their need," Sites continued. "Nearly every town in Oregon has some level of design review these days and I don't think anybody here is asking anyone to adhere to any, even unofficial, theme. It's just to keep out the stuff that's kind of tacky, that we don't have any control over right at the moment."
   While the city council will have the final say on what elements the design code requires, Sites is seeking to add numerous ground rules.
   "We're suggesting that there will be a color palette, in other words, no neon paint, maybe earth tones," she said. "Just a range of things that we would like to see brought in consistently throughout the city. Widen the sidewalks wherever they're coming in as new sidewalks, to a six to eight foot width - a good walking pedestrian kind of a sidewalk. We will probably be addressing street tree and addressing the sign code - getting it a little more consistent so we don't have a bunch of pole signs all over the place. It will depend upon what our planning commission and city council want to see and to what extent they want to see it."
   The City of Prineville is scheduling the final draft to be reviewed by Feb. 19.
   "That's our goal and I'm hoping that it will work out," Sites said. "It depends on how many people need more input on this."