MLT City Council adopts Recreation, Parks and Open Space Master Plan

Mountlake Terrace Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz, (bottom right), presented the Recreation, Parks and Open Space master plan to the city council at its regular business meeting Tuesday night.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council unanimously approved the adoption of the Recreation, Parks, and Open Space (RPOS) master plan at its Jan. 18 regular business meeting

Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz noted the plan was “the culmination of a long process” that began in July 2020, which utilized several different outreach forums to various stakeholders during its development. “Really this is a lot of hard work by the community, the council and the commissions that staff really appreciate first and foremost,” he added.

The RPOS is updated every six years and helps to serve as a strategic guide for planning efforts envisioned over a 20-year period. It impacts how parks, open spaces, trails and recreation opportunities are managed and enhanced. The plan can also serve as a capital planning tool for projects.

Developing the plan included community engagement, an inventory and assessment of city parks and their facilities along with an evaluation of system-wide needs and identifying goals for improvement.

“How do we serve today’s residents but also plan for the future growth of Mountlake Terrace,” Betz said. “It’s not going to be the same today as it’s going to be 20 years from now necessarily, so we need to continue to stay in touch with what’s happening and continue to stay on top of trends and needs of the community as well.”

Feedback provided by approximately 1,900 respondents throughout the process identified several community priorities. They include the acquisition of land for future parks or natural areas, replacing the Mountlake Terrace Recreation Pavilion, expanding recreational or commuter walking and biking trails, developing more playgrounds inclusive of all ages and abilities and also installing additional picnic shelters or small gathering places at parks throughout the city.

It was noted that 84% of people who engaged in the community feedback said they visit city parks at least once a week.

Respondents also indicated they would like to see a variety of expanded recreation programs, upgrades to sports fields, increased signage and wayfinding along trails and paths throughout the city, improvements to restroom facilities, renovations and upgrades to existing parks, and an increase in the number of pocket/neighborhood parks throughout the city.

An analysis of the city’s existing park locations and the availability of nearby access to those determined that there are three primary areas in Mountlake Terrace where property for parks needs to be prioritized and targeted for acquisition. Two of those areas with significant park gaps are west of I-5, while the third one is north of Mountlake Terrace Elementary School. Betz noted that recreational spaces on school properties were excluded in the gap analysis because those facilities and equipment are frequently not able to be accessed by the general public.

Salmon-colored areas are within a 1/4 mile walkshed of a park. Light pink areas are within a 1/2 mile walkshed of a park. Areas in white indicate a greater gap in walkshed access to local parks.

Key project recommendations identified in the RPOS include:

– Ballinger Park Master Plan projects such as a splash pad, trails, viewing platform

– Veterans Memorial Park Plan projects for upgraded trails, a playground, restroom, vegetation

– Playground upgrades to replace aging equipment at Firefighters Park, Terrace Creek Park, Bicentennial Park and the Recreation Pavilion

– Sport field improvements at Ballinger Park, the Evergreen Playfields and Forest Crest Park

– Land acquisitions to fill gaps in neighborhood park availabilities

– Restroom upgrades at a variety of parks and facilities

Total cost projections for the various projects recommended, many of which are only conceptual at this point, are approximately $74 million. Nearly half of that amount would go toward replacing the Recreation Pavilion – although Betz also noted that the cost estimate associated with that project is from approximately 10 years ago.

Ultimately, the city council would still have to approve each project and its associated budgetary needs. Additional funding and implementation tactics for developing such projects would also include identifying and applying for grants, pursuing state and federal appropriations, utilizing public-private partnerships, seeking volunteers and community-based projects, and potentially looking at more local funding.

In other business, the council unanimously approved two separate agreements as part of its consent calendar and also the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee’s funding recommendations for 2022.

The City of Mountlake Terrace will enter into an interlocal agreement with the Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) for the creation of affordable housing. The agreement allows HASCO — as an independent contractor — to acquire and operate properties within Mountlake Terrace for housing authority purposes. All of its housing development projects will still be subject to city planning and zoning ordinances and regulations unless otherwise waived by a city council resolution.

Under Washington law, a county-created housing authority like HASCO must get city council approval to operate within a city. However, when the approval is granted on a project-by-project basis, that process can delay HASCO’s ability to pursue properties in a timely fashion as they become available on the market. The agreement enables HASCO to operate in Mountlake Terrace without additional city council approval and is similar to one HASCO executed with the City of Edmonds in 2021.

Mountlake Terrace will not be involved in the operation of housing developed by HASCO or the determination of rentals and tenant selection. HASCO is solely responsible for the financing of any housing authority projects authorized by the agreement — unless the city specifically provides for financial support or participation by entering into a separate agreement. In addition, both parties will maintain regular communications between staff in order to provide updated information on existing housing programs available to city residents.

The agreement also identifies aspects of interest to the city, such as limiting the number of properties under HASCO’s public ownership that would be removed from the tax assessment rolls. HASCO is required to keep the city informed of any potential projects and also about the development and operations status of projects located within Mountlake Terrace. It must also consider the city’s comprehensive plan and long-range planning programs in the planning and location of any housing development project.

The council approved a professional services agreement with attorney Rico Tessandore to serve as the city’s hearings examiner, which presides over issues such as civil forfeitures, contested infractions and code compliance issues.

Lodging Tax Advisory Committee funding recommendations that were authorized for 2022 include $10,000 that was requested by Mountlake Terrace Friends of the Arts for the Arts of the Terrace Juried Art Show, which is planned for Sept. 16-24, 2022. And $15,000 that was requested by the Tour de Terrace organization for its three-day Tour de Terrace community festival. The two organizations were the only ones that submitted applications seeking funding for this year.

Lodging tax funds are generated by overnight stays in the city. The Studio 6 hotel is Mountlake Terrace’s only lodging facility that collects hotel/motel taxes.

The City of Mountlake Terrace budgets $25,000 that is available for allocation each year. Lodging tax funds are reimbursed to the organizations/events by the city. Therefore, if the funds allocated are not spent, such as if an event is cancelled, then the money still remains in the city’s fund balance.

Because the lodging tax funds are generated by overnight stays, state auditors recommend that they be used for programs and events that reach an audience beyond Mountlake Terrace in order to generate overnight stays in the city. Under state law, permitted uses of lodging tax funds include tourism marketing, the marketing and operations of special events and festivals, operations of tourism-related facilities that are owned or operated by nonprofit organizations, and operations and capital expenditures of tourism-related facilities owned by municipalities or public facilities districts.

Regarding the repairs of potholes following recent snowstorms, City Manager Scott Hugill told the council: “We are delayed a bit by a strike at an asphalt plant where we typically get hot-mix. So the crew has been using cold-mix and we hope to be able to get hot-mix to repair more of those potholes in the days ahead.”

The city council will hold a special meeting to discuss its visions and goals during a work/study retreat Monday, Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. See the information for watching online here.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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