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Sandy Style now the law of the land

City Council approves final reading
by: Marcus Hathcock, The "Retail 2" store in the new Walgreens development represents the sort of designs that will become common in town.

After a year and a half of meetings with consultants, public hearings and negotiations with business leaders, the Sandy City Council adopted its 'Sandy Style' palette of design requirements for commercial and industrial development.

A majority of the six councilors attending the Monday, March 3, meeting - Council President David Nelson was absent - voted to implement the new Cascadian-inspired guidelines and made provisions to accommodate the proposed new Sandy High School.

"I'm pleased that a number of years of work and cooperation and collaboration from local businesses has ended in the adoption of some standards that will add greatly to the city of Sandy's future look, and improve the cohesive look of the community," Sandy Mayor Linda Malone summarized.

Sandy Style isn't a strict application of Cascadian architecture (such as Timberline Lodge); it's a unique style that borrows many elements from Cascadian while employing other techniques that make sense for Sandy, City Planning Director Tracy Brown said.

The theme isn't meant to establish the feeling of another culture or period of time, like Sisters or Leavenworth, Wash., but it is meant to establish Sandy's sense of identity, the code language asserts.

Design elements include steep, pitched roofs; gables; stone, concrete or masonry bases; use of exposed, heavy timbers or natural wood beams; prominent entryways; use of metal within structures; and a Cascadian color palette (forest greens, stone grays and wood browns).

Sandy Style delineates specifications for Cascadian-style roofs, approved exterior colors and materials (and how much they may be used), requirements for the size and location of windows and lights, landscaping expectations, guidelines relating to building placement and site layout, rules governing external storage and garbage areas, and stipulations for dedicating 'public space' and pedestrian shelter areas.

'I think it will be more predictable as to what the city's looking for,' Brown said. 'It's spelled out pretty clearly.'

The new guidelines will take effect early next month, 30 days after Monday's meeting.

Brown says the city wouldn't expect the look of the city to change overnight.

'It's definitely a long-term thing,' he said in a previous interview. 'As businesses want to do more of a minor remodel, we'll be encouraging them to think about some of these architectural components. I think there's an opportunity just in smaller projects to start shaping the look of the town.'

The city is looking at the possibility of extending its urban renewal district and using urban renewal funds to help businesses switch over to Sandy Style.

Big-box revisited

Sandy Style was born from discussions the City Council had regarding whether it wanted to ban 'big box' stores, commercial developments with footprints larger than 60,000 square feet.

While councilors ultimately decided that design standards would make big box stores more palatable - in the vein of the Sandy Fred Meyer Store - concerns regarding large-scale development were still present at the Monday meeting.

As quickly as Sandy Style was adopted, it was repealed to make a last-minute change proposed by Councilor Bill Leslie.

Leslie successfully lobbied three of his fellow councilors, a majority, to delete a provision in the code that would have fast-tracked big box developments if they exceeded the basic requirements of Sandy Style - a tall order, city staff said.

Removing that language kept large-scale development a conditional use in Sandy, which has been the case here for years.

'To me, there's nothing wrong with additional scrutiny' for such a development, Leslie said. The addition of a big box store, he argued, would be a momentous enough occasion that it would warrant review by the Planning Commission and, if necessary, by the City Council.

Councilors Lois Coleman and Don Allen opposed the change, noting that the above-and-beyond requirements would have addressed any concerns regarding any big box development.

Collaborating with schools, businesses

The council unanimously passed Resolution 2008-08, which seeks to address some of the issues raised by the Oregon Trail School District regarding the application of Sandy Style to its proposed new high school building.

District officials have worried that the requirements of Sandy Style could add millions of dollars onto construction costs for the school, which in turn would increase the amount of a bond.

The resolution directs city staff to work with the district to draft an amendment to the design standards 'that would address the unique needs of schools in general and the proposed high school in particular.'

In short, it would reconcile those needs with the intent of Sandy Style.

'We appreciate it,' Oregon Trail Superintendent Shelley Redinger said. 'We need to pass the bond, and we don't want anything negative surrounding it. We want to work collaboratively with the city.'

Redinger joked, 'I don't want an ugly building, either; my name will probably be on that building.'

The resolution also expedites the process by sending the amendment directly to the City Council, bypassing the Planning Commission.

Bluff Road resident Kathleen Walker praised the council for working with the school district and urged the council to involve residents neighboring the proposed school, like her, in the amendment process.

'It's going to be in our neighborhood,' Walker said. 'We want to make sure that we accommodate the needs of the high school, and that it looks nice, too. I think we can do that.'

Brown said the amendment would be ready before the November bond election.

'Now let's get that bond passed,' Mayor Linda Malone said.

The school district isn't the only group with which the city has had to collaborate.

Local business leaders cried foul late last year as the city's Planning Commission prepared to forward the revamped code to the City Council, citing a lack of involvement in the creation of the style and its stringent guidelines.

The commission responded by hosting several workshops with the business community to address their concerns.

A number of changes came out in those meetings, including a broadened list of allowable materials that can be used in construction, making general maintenance activities exempt from the standards, removing requirements on bringing an entire building into compliance when building only an addition, clarifying the application process and other tightening of the code's language.

'There were some things that just made it more palatable to the business community, and there were some other things that were just good catches, so to speak - changes that should have been made,' Brown said.

To read the new development code changes, visit www.cityofsandy.com, click on 'Agendas and Minutes,' and find the March 3 council meeting.


What isn't Sandy Style?

1. Excessive tree removal and/or grading that may harm existing vegetation.

2. Commercial development where parking lots come between buildings and the street.

3. Excessive surface parking lot paving and redundant driveways.

4. Drive-up facilities adjacent to a street that interrupt pedestrian circulation patterns or create potential safety hazards.

5. Disjointed parking areas, confusing or unsafe circulation patterns.

6. Box-like structures with large, blank, unarticulated wall surfaces.

7. Building materials or colors that do not conform to Cascadian style.

8. Highly reflective surfaces or heavily tinted glass storefronts.

9. Strongly thematic architectural styles, forms, colors, materials, and/or detailing, that do not conform to the Sandy Style, including some forms of franchise architectural styles associated with some chain commercial establishments.

10. Inadequate landscape buffers adjacent to parking lots, walkways and streets.

11. Visible outdoor storage, loading, and equipment areas.

What does this affect?

All construction within a commercial or industrial zoning district or a non-residential use in a residential zoning district must adopt Sandy Style when the following actions occur:

1. New construction.

2. Replacement of a building that is destroyed.

3. Addition to an existing building.

4. Exterior alterations other than general maintenance on an existing building.

5. Site improvements, including changes to landscaping, parking, civic spaces, etc.

Exceptions spelled out in the code include landmark businesses Joe's Donuts and the Tollgate Inn. Sandy Style also allows for the roadside commercial-type buildings on Pioneer Boulevard - such as the Odd Fellows Hall and the Junker Building - to retain their distinct, historic style. New construction in those areas may either follow Sandy Style or match the buildings around them.