City Council postpones adoption of Comprehensive Plan amendments until February

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The current proposal for Mountlake Village LLC calls for an 8-story building on the former Roger’s Market site. (Illustration courtesy NextMLT.com)

After a public hearing and much discussion, the Mountlake Terrace City Council Dec. 18 voted 6-1 to postpone a decision on adopting the city’s annual Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map Amendments ordinance.

The reason for the delay ended up being procedural, based on news from City Attorney Greg Schrag, as the city failed to provide the required 60 days notice to the State Department of Commerce prior to approving the Comprehensive Plan. As a result, the earliest the city can adopt any plan amendments would be at either its regular meeting Feb. 5, 2018 or during a special meeting called at some point after Jan. 22.

There was also a push by some on the council to use the delay as a reason to revisit the proposed Comprehensive Plan amendments, by sending them back to the city Planning Commission for further review.

That move was prompted by recent feedback from local developers — discussed in detail during a community forum Dec. 9 — who say the city is moving too slowly on approving proposed projects, particularly those in the Town Center area.

The city’s Planning Commission has discussed the idea of expanding the Town Center core north and south of the city’s existing “Super Block” bounded by 56th and 58th Avenues West and 232nd and 234th Streets Southwest. The commission has also talked about possibly allowing buildings taller than the current 7-story limit, in exchange for developer-provided incentives like open space.

But Edith Duttlinger, the city’s acting community and economic development director, noted that commission decided that such ideas would “require more thought and a comprehensive public outreach.” The city didn’t have the resources to undertake those efforts in 2017, Duttlinger said, adding that the Town Center topic “is an important priority for 2018.”

Developer Alan Clark spoke during the Dec. 18 public hearing, urging the council to take another look at issues related to Town Center development and building heights. Clark is the principal of Mountlake Village LLC, which in June 2016 purchased the Roger’s Market property and is interested developing an 8-story project there, which is taller than current city design standards allow.

“How can we get beyond this — of simply talking about goals and objectives?” a frustrated Clark asked the council, noting the project he is proposing “translates into an enormous amount of revenue to the city.”

Also speaking during the hearing was Duane Landsverk of Mountlake Terrace-based Landsberg Homes, who noted that local developers have been “less than successful in getting a permit lately.” The vision for the Town Center area is strong, Landsverk said, but “implementing it needs attention.”

“I need leadership to make that happen,” Landsverk said. “And you folks in this room are who I’m counting on.”

Since the city can only amend the Comprehensive Plan once a year, there was talk among councilmembers about the value of asking the Planning Commission to further review Town Center-related amendments now — instead of waiting for another year. That way, the commission could then make recommendations to the council sooner rather than later.

Councilmember Bryan Wahl made a motion to do just that, but it failed on a 3-4 vote — Councilmember Seaun Richards and Mayor Jerry Smith voting in favor, and Councilmembers Doug McCardle, Laura Sonmore, Kyoko Matsumoto Wright and Rick Ryan voting against.

Councilmembers who voted against the idea had argued that there’s no point in speeding up the process, since there are other steps required — including allowing time for public testimony — before the council can approve increases in building heights and other Town Center changes.

“We don’t have any design standards that deal with building heights,” McCardle said, adding that the council’s priority should be “to make sure it’s done correctly.”

After Wahl’s motion failed, the council voted 6-1 (Richards voting against) to wait until Feb. 5 to adopt the existing Comprehensive Plan amendments.

Also at its Dec. 18 meeting, City Manager Scott Hugill announced the hiring of Christy Osborn from the City of Lacey as the city’s  new Community & Economic Development Director, beginning Jan. 2, 2018.

In other business, the council:

– Observed the swearing in of new Police Officer Jesse Wright and met new Code Enforcement Officer Mike Padgett. (See our earlier story here.)

– Approved the following items listed on the consent calendar: professional services agreements with The Johnston Group for Lake Ballinger/McAleer Creek Watershed Forum and Federal Lobbying for 2018; a Verdant Health Commission Drowning Prevention Program Grant; an Oxford Engineering Professional Services Agreement related to additional work required for the Main Street Project; adoption of the city’s 2018 Legislative Agenda and adoption of an amendment to the Gateway development agreement that clarifies that all three buildings qualify for the property tax abatement program.

An agenda item regarding approval of a contract with the Town of Woodway to provide police services was pulled because the city is still negotiating with the police guild over the particulars. The City of Edmonds has also been negotiating to renew its existing contract with Woodway to provide police services.

— By Teresa Wippel

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