City Council Monday set to adopt Comp Plan docket; hold hearing on low-impact development code update

Among several key items the Mountlake Terrace City Council will discuss during its Monday, May 21 business meeting is which items to place on the final docket for the 2018 Comprehensive Plan Amendment process.

Adopted under the state Growth Management Act, the city’s 20-year Comprehensive Plan is designed to guide Mountlake Terrace’s growth and livability. By law, the city must periodically evaluate and revise the plan, and minor amendments generally occur annually.

A vocal player in that discussion in recent months has been the CLEAR group, a coalition of Mountlake Terrace developers, real estate brokers, business owners and citizens who have been meeting since December to discuss ways to revitalize the city.

CLEAR members were frustrated by the council’s inability to pass several Comprehensive Plan amendments during the 2017 update process that they felt were critical to the city’s growth.

Partially in response to the CLEAR group’s concerns, the council appointed an 11-member city economic development task force that included five members appointed by CLEAR.

Community and Economic Development Director Christy Osborn told the council during its Thursday, May 17 work/study session that CLEAR had submitted to the city its own list of suggestions to be included as part of the final docket. They included the following four bulleted items for the Comprehensive Plan’s Town Center subarea plan update:

– Revisit the focus and intent of the Community Business Downtown District (BC/D)
– Revisit the boundaries of the BC/D
– Consider streamlining the five districts into three
districts, and
– Incentivize development

Osborn explained that the Mountlake Terrace Planning Commission also met Monday, May 14 to provide the council with its recommendation on what should be included on the Comprehensive Plan docket, and the commission recommended eliminating the CLEAR group’s proposed items. Their reasoning? They wanted the Town Center Subarea Plan Update to come from the economic development task force, she said.

Councilmember Bryan Wahl then asked if the CLEAR group’s concerns would be taken into consideration with the other proposed amendments. “It sounds like we are still addressing all of what they are interested in seeing us address,” Wahl said. “We are just not including the bullets.”Osborn said she agreed with Wahl’s assessment, adding that she thinks bullets were “just a way for the CLEAR group to say, hey we would like to make sure that we are addressing these things as we go through the Town Center plan.”

Osborn also reminded the council that the preliminary docket also includes text and map amendments from the Town Center subarea plan, reviewing concurrent text and map amendments to the development codes as part of that subarea plan, and making some changes to the plan’s economic vitality element.

The city’s planning staff has added another request for the docket, Osborn said: A comprehensive map amendment and zoning map amendment to change the zoning of seven parcels, totaling approximately 1.3 acres, from Urban Low Residential to Parks and Open Space. The properties, located along 62nd Avenue West in the city’s northwest quadrant, are being acquired by Sound Transit for use as part of the future light rail guideway, Osborn said. Since that area of the city has few parks and open space, the Recreation Park Advisory Committee recommended supporting redesignation of these properities for parks and open space, for use as either a linear neighborhood or pocket park area. (A linear neighborhood park is one that is longer than it is wide. See more at this link.)

Wahl said he’d be interested in revisiting northwest, south and east boundaries of the Town Center “just to figure out if we’re on target or if we need to make changes.” Wahl also suggested the council revisit the boundaries of the Super Block to see if they need to be expanded or changed, and to look at the block’s height and density.

Examining the right incentives to attract development is also important, Wahl said.

The Town Center area is currently bounded by 56th and 58th Avenues West and 232nd and 234th Streets Southwest. The Planning Commission has discussed the idea of expanding MLT’s Town Center core north and south of the city’s existing Super Block, which is located between 56th and 58th Avenues West and 232nd and 234th Streets Southwest. The commission has also talked about possibly allowing buildings taller than the current seven-story limit, in exchange for developer-provided incentives like open space.

Deanne Landsverk — who along with her husband Duane own Mountlake Terrace-based Landsverk Homes and led formation of the CLEAR group — offered her own comments at the end of Thursday night’s meeting. She said she was “disheartened” by the planning commission’s comments earlier in the week that described the CLEAR proposals as “developer driven” and “that the developers were trying to back-door items…through the CLEAR group. That couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Landsverk added.

“My concern is that what is going to be voted on, on the docket, needs to be on the docket,” she said. “The task force hasn’t put anything to you to get on the docket.

“All CLEAR wants to do is to make sure that they’re part of the conversation, that’s our agenda,” she added.

While CLEAR appointed five members of its group to be on the task force, “that wasn’t CLEAR backing off and saying we are now going to hand over the responsibility for the revitalization of the Town Center to the task force alone,” she said.

“We haven’t taken a back seat to the task force,” Landsverk added. “We’re here and we want to stay engaged and we want to stay as a partner to the council and see this through.”

Also on the agenda for the May 21 meeting, the council will hold a public hearing to consider proposed updates to the city’s Low Impact Development (LID) codes. The Washington State Department of Ecology required cities and counties that operate regulated municipal stormwater systems to make LID “the preferred and commonly used approach to site development.” The Department of Ecology has granted the city an extension to June 29, 2018 to achieve compliance with all minimum standards.

The proposed low impact development ordinance is intended to increase protection of creeks, lakes (Ballinger Lake and downstream), and private property from flooding and pollutant loading. It is designed to create flexibility for implementing LID on a site-by-site basis, and emphasizes use of LID techniques such as bioretention swales, reestablishment of healthy soils, and minimization of impervious surface. The code updates are intended to support increased LID in more locations, and to lower LID implementation costs for development.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on March 26 to consider the presentation by city staff and take public testimony before making a recommendation to City Council to adopt the ordinance.

In addition, the council Monday night will consider amendments to Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code relating to sight area triangle – this addresses specific dimensions at both public street and driveway-roadway intersections that are to remain unobstructed so that potential traffic conflicts can be seen.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at Interim Mountlake Terrace City Council Chambers, 6100 219th Street S.W., Suite 220, 2nd floor. You can see the complete agenda here.

— By Teresa Wippel

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