The Kent Planning Commission wants to preserve the city's environmentally conscious reputation.
Commission members approved a new section to Kent's zoning code Tuesday that adds guidelines for landscaped amenities.
The requirements won't be official until approved by City Council following a mandatory public hearing. It could be a couple of months before the section is finalized and approved.
With the exception of individually platted single- and two-family dwellings, the new code would require any new development -- or expansion project -- involving 7,500 or more square feet of floor area to provide a landscaping plan for approval by the planning commission.
The code spells out standards for landscaping, maintenance and the requirements for buffering and screening. It also defines other features like landscaped parking lot islands and provides some leeway for flexibility.
Assistant Law Director Eric Fink noted that the code includes a section permitting the planning commission to deviate from the plans should some features be appropriate in light of factors that could vary from property to property like topography or a development's neighbors.
"Everyone's made comments about greenspace and landscaping, so I think we're being proactive," commissioner John Gargan said. "I'm glad to see this built into the zoning code."
The changes would not have retroactive impacts.
Comparatively, the commission looked at how the new codes would affect recent construction projects.
The Dunkin' Donuts project on Main Street, for example, was approved without any mandated landscaping. If the codes as they have been proposed were applied, that property would be required to install three trees and some shrubbery options including those for parking lot, side and rear yard buffers.
Commissioner Melissa Long said the new codes overall may be a "little in excess," but that having some guidelines to follow along with the flexibility provided to the commission is appropriate. Applicants could also seek variances to landscaping plans from the Board of Zoning Appeals if needed.
The final codes will likely be tweaked before council approval.
Commissioners originally decided to pursue such codes months ago as an effort to be proactive in maintaining and further developing city green space.
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