Council hears arts, parks commission reports; will consider consultant for 236th property condemnations

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After hearing about the significant accomplishments of both groups in 2016 — as well as their robust work plans for 2017 — the Mountlake Terrace City Council at its March 2 work/study session offered sincere words of appreciation for the community volunteers who make up the city’s Arts Commission and Recreation & Parks Advisory Commission.

“I want to thank you for your dedication and your knowledge and just your hard work,” Councilmember Doug McCardle said to members of the Recreation & Parks commission members gathered in the council chambers. “You truly do have a passion for parks and recreation in the city and it shows.”

McCardle and other councilmembers offered similar words of appreciation to arts commission members, congratulating them on yet another successful Arts of the Terrace juried art show, including the Friday night preview party which in 2016 drew its largest crowd ever. Last year, the show drew artists from five states and 39 cities.

“We’re sort of outgrowing the library, but that’s a good thing,” Arts Commission Chair Judy Ryan said.

Councilmembers told arts commission members that they look forward to being able to in the future provide more space for the Arts of the Terrace show as well as other commission efforts, perhaps as part of a new City Hall building that is now in the planning stages.

“I just can’t wait for us to have a facility for you guys to use,” Mayor Pro Tem Kyoko Matsumoto Wright said.

As part of her report, Ryan talked about the commission’s work with Sound Transit to pick an artist for the design of the new light rail station planned for 236th Street Southwest as part of the Link Light Rail extension to Lynnwood in 2023. Commission members were among those voting for the station artist, who was selected earlier in the week for the $450,000 art project. Ryan said the chosen artist, who is from California, is “very community oriented” and told the selection committee that he spent time in Mountlake Terrace observing businesses, facilities and residences to get a sense of the area.

The arts commission hopes to sponsor a “meet-and-greet” event with the artist so that community members can share what they want to see in the station artwork, Ryan said.

You can read more about the Arts Commission’s 2016 accomplishments and 2017 goals in their council presentation here.

During the Recreation & Parks Advisory Commission (RPAC) report to the council, Commission Chair Dustin DeKoekkoek described the commission as “the eyes and ears of the community when it comes to our parks and recreation programs.” Commission members solicit feedback from parks users and bring that back to city, helping staff to pinpoint needed improvements and develop future plans, he added. The commission currently has an opening and the time commitment — involving a once-a-month meeting — is relatively light, DeKoekkoek said.

RPAC has been involved in Park Master Planning for Ballinger Park and will work on implementation of that plan in 2017. Committee members have also been taking tours of other regional recreation facilities to assist the city’s planning as it studies ways to update Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion facilities.

More on RPAC’s 2016 accomplishments and 2017 goals can be found here.

In other business Thursday night, the council heard from City Manager Scott Hugill regarding a professional services agreement of up to $150,000 with Inslee Best for services relating to property and right-of-way acquisition along 236th Street Southwest for the city’s Main Street Revitalization Project.

Since 2015, the city has been making offers to property owners along 236th to acquire property for street improvements but some owners so far aren’t willing to sell, Hugill said. The city now needs to begin condemnation proceedings to take property under eminent domain, and would like to hire Inslee Best to provide expertise in that process. Councilmembers clarified with Hugill that the properties in question are relatively small parcels and do not involve people’s homes. Hugill said he would be able to provide a schematic at the Monday, March 6 council meeting that shows exact locations of the properties needed.

The council also reviewed the proposed funding agreement for the 2017 Tour de Terrace Festival, which is basically unchanged from previous years. That agreement will be officially approved during the Monday night meeting.

Other items on the Monday night council agenda include:

– Approval of 2016 Transportation Benefit District Board Annual Report.

– Approval of the Alliance for Housing Affordability 2018 budget and work plan.

Monday night’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Mountlake Terrace City Hall, 6100 219th St. S.W., 2nd floor. You can see the complete agenda here.

— By Teresa Wippel

9 COMMENTS

  1. I love the Art Show being at the library, it’s such a convenient way for the public to be informed about and enjoy the display.

  2. There are at least two ways of viewing the issue of the taking of private property through eminent domain actions.

    One way is the way likely used to discuss the issue with the City Council – small overall square footage, out by the street, no structures destroyed.

    Another is that the City just hired attorneys to initiate eminent domain proceedings against some of its own citizens, who are about to find that pedestrians on the sidewalks and road noise are about to be significantly closer to their front windows, and that the City thinks that having far more pedestrians using those sidewalks while walking to and from public transportation is a good thing.

    It should surprise no one that some homeowners will find their lives less happy once the taking is complete and the construction begins. It’s unfortunate that the reality of what the City is about to do to these residents was not included in the article.

    It might be interesting to publish a piece featuring some of those homeowners on the losing end, so that people like the councilmembers might learn how they feel about what the City is about to do.

    As usual, two sides to an issue. In this case, one significantly better-funded.

    • If by “road noise” you mean from cars, it should actually be less after the project is complete. The curb line is staying in relatively the same location (shifting slightly north on north side) but bike lanes are being added and the vehicle travel lanes are being narrowed. This will actually generally move cars further away from the homes. Additionally, the narrower lanes will tend to slow down vehicles during non-peak hours and the addition of street trees will also act as a noise barrier between vehicles and homes. Removal of street parking may be the only thing that could possibly increase the sound levels from vehicles.

      Don’t really have anything to add on pedestrian noise. You’re’ correct, more people walking = more people talking.

      • Well, let’s look at some of this more carefully. Assuming no curb shifts but a widening of the sidewalks to about 12 feet (what it looks like in drawings posted here:http://nextmlt.com/posts/main-street-update), assuming that the statement (http://mltnews.com/neighbors-speak-during-public-hearing-on-gateway-project/) from a resident who measured 20 feet from his property line to the existing sidewalk is correct and typical along 236th, and estimating that the distance from the curb to the inside edge of the current sidewalks is about 7 feet, then the planned sidewalks will be 5 feet closer to the front elevations of the residences. That would mean pedestrians as little as 15 feet from front windows instead of 20 feet, unless people walk on private property and get even closer. Assuming no increase in the number of pedestrians, I’m calculating an increase in pedestrian noise levels of slightly more than 40% by this shortened distance. If the City and some of its inhabitants realize their dream of massive transit use by in-close citizens walking to the transit station and the number of pedestrians along 236th was to quadruple, there would be an overall pedestrian noise increase from 1.0 to 5.7, or a nearly six-fold increase in pedestrian noise from what is currently experienced.

        If we look at the changes in the street itself, I would counter that it seems the elimination of curb parking, even after accounting for bike lanes, would move vehicles closer to the front windows along 236th, and not further away as you are suggesting. Traveling vehicles would be separated from the curb by the bike lane width, likely less than a parked car width, and further, moving vehicles give far more leeway to parked cars than they do to typically-empty bike lanes. And we wouldn’t want to forget about the center turn lane along the 236th street, which will keep vehicles from moving further left and is part of what narrows the lanes.

        Finally, if we are going to mention the addition of a single street tree per house along 236th (the first link above seems to show significantly fewer than that) and infer that some sound will be absorbed by a 9″ diameter tree trunk separating the street from the one-story homes along 236th, then we surely must give consideration to the existing sound dampening effects of all of those vehicles typically parked along 236th, which are significantly wider than a tree. Those parked vehicles won’t be there anymore, but a tree trunk will. Not exactly full compensation.

        I’m not suggesting at all that the City does not have the right to initiate eminent domain action. But I think that not downplaying the effects that the project will have on some residents is only fair. There will be winners and losers in this development, and residents along 236th will have a hard time considering themselves to have benefitted when all of this is over. The City is inking a contract in which it will pay a lead attorney whose published billing rate is $420 per hour (http://mountlaketerrace.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=1101&meta_id=64291) to take property away from some of its own citizens. Given that municipalities always offer less than fair value (appraised is not fair, let’s be honest, when you are going to impair the value of the rest of the property with what you are doing) the first time, given that attorneys such as, say, http://www.rdtlaw.com/john-paul-turner.html exist to defend citizens against unfair offers and typically do so on a contingency basis, and given that these citizens will eventually band together to get the best deal for themselves by hiring one of those attorneys, it would seem reasonable to offer more money, now, to citizens about to be harmed by City action, rather than choosing to pay top dollar for an outside attorney to initiate legal action against them.

        One individual representing the City, with some bargaining power, might get a lot more done over a couple of beers with residents than an attorney who bills at $420 per can accomplish without spending $150k of City money to do it. That $150k, by the way, doesn’t include higher payouts to residents that might be required as part of legal proceedings.

        • You’re correct on several of these points, especially concerning the turn lane. There will obviously be impacts to these private properties. It would be great if they could all be work out over a beer but FHWA/WSDOT has pretty strict policies and procedures about how the property can be assessed and how much can be offered. If you’re interested it’s all in WSDOT’s Right of Way Manual which you can read here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Publications/Manuals/M26-01.htm.

          • The manual is a guide, and is so indicated in its very first sentence. There is plenty of room for changes in appraised value based upon different perspectives. I’ve been in this same situation on a commercial property along a major thoroughfare, and I just reviewed the documents to refresh my memory. The final appraised value agreed to by a municipality about 20 miles from here, after we enlisted an attorney to work on our behalf, was slightly more than 75% higher than contained in the original formal offer to us by that muncipality. After the attorney’s efforts and some closing costs were compensated we were still nearly 50% better off than we would have been had we accepted the original offer, and I did nothing other than reply to a few emails and sign some documents in front of a notary.

            There are all sorts of things that don’t make it into the original offer, but are compensable aspects of the land taking. Experienced attorneys representing property owners know this. Individual property owners opposed by an attorney being paid $420/hr by the City probably don’t. I certainly didn’t.

  3. The reality of what the city is about to do to these residents along 236th was not just ignored by MLT.Com’s article. As Mr. Kramer implies, it is also being overlooked by a far more powerful city government with lots of money to throw around – our money. City government, like all governments, is supposed to be the aggregation of its citizen’s interests, not a mouthpiece for regional imperatives. Look no further than the folks impacted in this particular instance to determine if that foundational premise is indeed true here.

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to change. And I don’t think conversation over beer is going to make the residents along the north side of 236th any more happy to accept their fate – at any price. Wait until there is a Sound Transit station right down the street. The traffic and the parking problems anticipated in this brief conversation pale in comparison and those impacts will reach far beyond 236th Street. Maybe far enough for people in other neighborhoods to get interested.

    • Your exactly right Len, I feel bad for those that recently bought their houses not knowing what was soon to be coming their way. Sound Transit has no plans to improve the parking at the Transit Center. People in this city need to wake up!

  4. The street improvements will probably have a very good effect on these folks’ home values. Lots of curb appeal. More people walking means more safety too. If you’re curious what the change is like, go down the street to the Ballinger Trail. Thumbs up on that project.

    It’s not like 236th is Medina or something right now.

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