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McK Town Center rezoning will provide maximum flex, options and no big box stores

MCKINLEYVILLE TOWN CENTER This map shows some of the proposed trails and open space areas for the undeveloped area of the Town Center. The circle on the left shows the Pierson Pond. On the bottom, south of Hiller Road, there is an area designated as a possible park. However, portions of that strip are already developed with homes, businesses and a church. The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee does not support that area as being a park as designated on the map. Humboldt County Planning Department image

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – The McKinleyville Town Center will likely be rezoned, which will open up the area to a great mix of uses, including housing, stores,a restaurants, hotels and public facilities.

However, restrictions will likely stay in place that prevent new drive-through restaurants and so-called “big box” stores.

Mixed Use Zone

The McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC) voted unanimously Jan. 22 to recommend that the entire Town Center be declared a Mixed Use Zone. 

The Town Center encompasses an area stretching from Railroad Drive to Heartwood Drive and from McKinleyville Avenue to Pierson Park. The area is hodgepodge of zoning, with most of Central Avenue zoned Commercial Service, and the undeveloped area behind the McKinleyville Shopping Center with different zoning in different sections, including Medium Density Residential, Commercial Services and Mixed Use.

The Mixed Use Zone provides the most latitude for what can be built. The McKMAC decided last week that changing the

zoning for the entire Town Center to Mixed Use would be the best way to realize its vision for the Town Center.

The McKMAC members have said they want the area to be developed with multi-story buildings, with stores on the street level and residences above. 

The committee wants pedestrian and bicycle friendly pathways and open space areas, with the Town Center having a “village-like” look.

Some committee members raised concerns about what affect the Mixed Use Zone might have on Central Avenue and areas of the McKinleyville Town Center that are already developed. 

With the Mixed Use Zone, housing could be built in what’s now a commercial area. 

Housing could be built above existing business, and existing commercial buildings could be converted to housing. 

“Is that a bad thing?” asked Humboldt County Planning Director John Ford.

Ford said the Mixed Use Zone would give builders greater flexibility, which is important considering the amount of wetlands in the undeveloped portion of the Town Center.

Allowable uses in a Mixed Use Zone include single family homes, apartments, duplexes, commercial buildings and stores, hotels, offices and professional services, parks and schools.

Drive throughs and big boxes

McKinleyville’s growth blueprint, the McKinleyville Community Plan, includes restrictions against new drive-through restaurants and big box stores in the Town Center. Existing drive-throughs would be grandfathered in.

The committee decided to keep the restrictions.

It was noted that the restrictions on drive-throughs are specifically for restaurants. 

As for big box stores, they are defined in the plan as “in excess of 45,000 sq. ft., under one proprietor or a set of discrete franchises, retail sales and services are offered in a centralized, warehouse-like setting intended to serve a regional area.”

Open Space

The committee also tackled what types of open spaces should be included in the Town Center. 

This discussion took up a large portion of the meeting, which went on for more than three hours.

The committee was shown a map from the Planning Department that designated a strip of land south of Hiller Road, between Central Avenue and McKinleyville Avenue, as a park.

Greg Pierson, whose family owns much of the land, objected to that area being designated as a park. “It seems to me excessive and a reach,” Pierson said.

Planning Director Ford explained that turning that area into a park was a suggestion in the McKinleyville Community Plan, but not one that his department was necessarily advocating. 

Ford said the strip would be more of a parkway than a traditional park, perhaps providing a trail between Central Avenue and McKinleyville.

Audience members pointed out that the strip already includes developed properties, including Grace Good Shepherd Church, the Suds and Duds Laundromat and some homes.

The committee started to get bogged down during a discussion on wetlands, with members questioning how they could decide what open space amenities should be included when they are not clear on the size and location of wetlands.

Ford reminded the committee they are developing policies for future development, not an actual development plan.

The committee ultimately voted unanimously that the Town Center should include wetlands, stormwater detention basins, parks, public gathering areas, trails, sidewalks and  roads integrated into a plan for land use and active transportation that is cohesive and reflects the culture and values of McKinleyville. 

The committee took exception to the map showing the strip of parkland south of Hiller Road,

More public input

More than 40 people attended the Jan. 22 meeting, the fourth in a series of meetings to create an ordinance for the McKinleyville Town Center. 

The ordinance would set policies for future development, which would most likely be carried out by private developers.

The Humboldt County Planning Department is also conducting a survey and seeking additional public comment. 

The survey and other documents about the McKinleyville Town Center can be found at humboldtgov.org/2564/McKinleyville-Town-Center-Master-Plan.

The committee will meet again on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at a location to be announced and will discuss design, streetscapes and  transportation. 





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