City Council News Recap | February 16, 2021
Posted on 02/19/2021

The Newcastle City Council roundups offer a digest of notable items for those who can't make it to the regular meetings. View the meeting agenda packet here and the meeting video is posted here when available. View past City Council roundups at newcastlewa.gov/councilrecaps.

WATERLINE CONDOS DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT

In November 2020, the Newcastle City Council heard a presentation from a company that hopes to develop the vacant site behind the library into a mixed-use condominium project. The site has some physical constraints that make this project challenging, so the developer is seeking a development agreement that would offer some flexibility to the City’s current standards.

During that November 17 meeting, Councilmembers expressed several concerns on everything from building height to the lack of affordable housing. Following that discussion, the developer revised the request in a new presentation before the Council at its February 16 meeting. 

In the first proposal, the developer sought modifications that would allow increased density (from 30 to 74 units), increased building height (from 45 feet to 65 feet) and an exemption from affordable housing requirements.

In the new proposal, the developer redesigned the project to reduce the density to 62 units and the height to 54 feet. They also agreed to pay more than $500,000 to the ARCH Affordable Housing Fund, which City code allows in lieu of providing affordable housing units. The funds can be used toward either a nonprofit or private affordable housing development in the future, either within Newcastle or elsewhere. The funds would not be spent without permission of the City Council.

In return, the developer would supply surplus parking spaces. This project would offer a total of 164 parking stalls, which is above the site’s required 121 spaces. There would be 19 earmarked for the Newcastle Library. After hearing Council feedback, the developer revised it to 13 standard spaces and 6 compact spaces, providing extra room for library patrons with children. A total of 121 parking spots are for building residents, with the rest left for the public in the form of free on-street and garage parking.

Other benefits of the project include sales tax revenue from the sale of condo units, ongoing revenue from retail sales tax and three spaces for new retail (including support for a full restaurant).

Community Development Director Steve Osguthorpe added that the City cannot reject growth. The Growth Management Act requires communities to meet certain growth targets. After listening to the community during the development of the downtown strategic plan, the City heard the preference is to focus the density in the downtown area (where this project is located) in an effort to preserve the character of our single family neighborhoods. 

Following the discussion, the Newcastle City Council chose to postpone a decision on the development agreement after Councilmembers continued to express concerns about the building’s height.

GENERAL UPDATES

- The Newcastle City Council approved a 2021 budget amendment that ensures the beginning 2021 budget fund numbers match the final 2020 ending fund balances. This is a routine process done annually for public transparency. The Council also added a staff merit pool for the second half of the year, which represents half of the cost of the Council’s adopted policy.

- Prior to the regular portion of the meeting, the City Council met with the Community Activities Commission to review its 2021 Work Plan. The CAC is comprised of seven community members who volunteer their time and expertise to serve as a review and advisory body to the City Council on City-owned parks and trails, recreation programs, community events, volunteerism and community engagement.

- The City Council discussed potential topics for its retreat, which will be held Friday, February 26, over Zoom.

- You can read City Manager Rob Wyman’s report here. City Manager Wyman delivers the report at each meeting and it includes valuable City news updates.

The Newcastle City Council wants to hear from you! Members of the public are invited to share thoughts during public hearings or two open public comment periods at meetings. In accordance with public health orders, meetings of the City Council currently occur virtually on the first and third Tuesdays of each month starting at 6 p.m., unless otherwise noted. You can email your thoughts to Councilmembers at citycouncil@newcastlewa.gov

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