The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Cathlamet council hears setback lending dilemma


April 20, 2017

The Cathlamet town council dealt with a construction setback dilemma when it met Monday.

Linda Barth asked the council to change an ordinance setting for parameters for rebuilding when a building is partially destroyed.

She explained that her family is trying to sell a small house sitting on a small lot on Maple Street. Years ago, a neighbor constructed a garage and put the back wall three feet from their building, which is closer than the town's building ordinance allows.

A sale is pending but being held up when the lending bank learned that the town ordinance wouldn't allow the Barth house, if partially destroyed or damaged to the extent of not more than 50 percent, to be rebuilt on its existing footprint.

"I would like to see something grandfathered in," she said. "It's the first house on Maple Street. It's no fault of the people there; it happened over 15 years ago.

"We'd like to be allowed to rebuild on the footprint that is there."

Councilmembers discussed the matter and tabled action to have time to consider the issues.

Councilmember Sue Cameron expressed surprise that the town's building department would have approved the garage construction so close to the property line.

Councilmember Dick Swart said he wanted to know how big a problem the setback issues for the town are, for there are other places with the same issues.

Houses along the river side of Columbia Street have similar issues, but the council has already established a policy allowing the non-conforming uses in that area.

Town attorney Heidi Heywood said an issue to consider is if the town wants to phase out nonconforming uses.

An ordinance change would take two months, she added.

"I could go with a change in the ordinance if I knew the ramifications," Cameron said.

"I wouldn't change the ordinance," said Councilmember Andy Lea. "It's philosophy. Do we want to allow the use to continue or to phase it out?

That being said, I'd like to see if there's some other way to address the issue."

Councilmembers Bernadette Goodroe and Ryan Smith said they were concerned about the town's liability in the future if there were problems.

Mayor Dale Jacobson commented that in some jurisdictions, the situation is dealt with by requiring new construction to include a two-hour fire wall.

Jacobson ended the discussion, telling Barth, "We'll look into it."


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