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Williams designing city's future with past in mind
The character of Williams — from its varied, generational neighborhoods to the pioneering feel of the downtown — was so important to city officials that they made it a priority in the general plan.
Now there is a design guideline manual to help project developers understand that character.
"It has been one of our goals and polices to develop a design guideline, so it is great that we are already implementing our general plan," said Monica Stegall, the city's assistant planner.
She said the old zoning code simply was not adequate, and city staff would often have no choice but approve a project that met all the standards but really did not fit into the character of the town.
The city Planning Commission this week voted 4-0 to recommend approval of the guidelines to the City Council, which is scheduled to address the matter on Sept. 19.
"The main purpose is to provide a clear understanding of the kind of development (design and standards) the city wants to see in the future; what is the city going to look like?" Stegall said.
And a big part of that, city officials have made it clear, is what the town has always looked liked.
"In a small town, it is nice to have everything look continual. Orange and green and purple buildings just don't do it," said Councilwoman Pat Ash, who was on the design committee that helped develop the manual.
"I am such an activist for preservation that I like to see things done in their historical colors and their historical (facades)."
Ash said she was particularly interested in keeping the feel of the downtown the same.
"I think it is important to have some consistency, especially when you only have two business blocks," the councilwoman said.
Stegall said the document differentiates the older Williams area to the west of the city, with the newer development areas to the east — but is consistent within each area. "We created different preferences to each side of town, then broke that down to commercial, and the downtown commercial and their unique qualities," Stegall said.
"Even big box stores, if ever something like that comes here, we have preferences for those, too," she said.
Residential areas spell out those differences as much as anything, with the old town featuring a mix of architectural styles from Victorian to Craftsman, while newer areas are more consistent in their building styles and neighborhood qualities.
The document provides a lot of photographs and illustrations from within the city and other areas as examples of what the city officials are looking for from a project.
But creating a design blueprint is not the only objective of the manual.
It also streamlines the approval process. Projects 2,000 square feet and less, for example, can be approved over the counter by Stegall or City Administrator Chuck Bergson.
A project between 2,000 and 5,000 square feet will be handed over to a new committee for review. It will be comprised of two planning commissioners and a design professional.
Anything larger than 5,000 square feet will require staff and committee review and then be sent on to the Planning Commission and possibly City Council.
All reviews, Stegall said, are subject to environmental laws, but otherwise could shave