Whether buildings taller than 45 feet can be built in downtown Sandpoint is up to the Sandpoint City Council.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted Tuesday night to recommend approval of a draft ordinance that would raise the height limit on buildings approved through a conditional use permit or planned unit development. The proposed ordinance would allow buildings with a maximum height of 60 feet.
The conditional use permit would only be available for certain areas of downtown, however. The historic First, Second, Third and Cedar streets would be excluded, as well as the waterfront.
That could mean trouble for a pending application for a variance on the current 45-foot height limit from the developer of The Seasons at Sandpoint, a condominium project that’s under construction along the shores of Lake Pend Oreille north of City Beach.
The Seasons developer is seeking permission to build as high as 56 feet, but that’s at odds with the draft height ordinance as it now stands, said Sandpoint City Planner Will Harrington.
Also at odds would be a proposed lighthouse for the city’s jetty, also north of City Beach.
Harrington said the planning commission plans to consider an amendment to the ordinance that would allow for structures like the lighthouse or a church steeple.
The areas designated open to taller structures are mostly along the city’s Fifth Avenue corridor, except the blocks between Cedar and Larch.
That means that the Panhandle State Bank’s desire to build multi-story headquarters on the site of Harold’s IGA could get approval.
Before any of the taller structures are allowed, according to the ordinance, the city must be able to fight fires above 45 feet.
To do that, the Fire Department will need a new ladder truck.
“There are a number of ways to pay for that, and the city will have to determine how it’s going to acquire that equipment before anyone can apply for a permit,” Harrington said.
One possibility would be a surcharge for anything over 45 feet, he said.
While the draft ordinance designates the maximum height at 60 feet, that only applies to buildings with flat roofs.
The actual height may be higher, because the maximum height is measured as the half-way point between the peak of the roof and the eaves.
The reason for that is to allow for variation in architecture, explained Harrington.
“If we didn’t measure it that way, everybody would build flat roofs,” he said.
The City Council is expected to vote on the recommendation at its April 20 meeting.
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