City Council tries to balance authority and public input

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

The City Council tried last week to clarify the process of amending code and ordinances, but decided that the proposed revision — a seven-line, 101-word sentence — would only have complicated things.

The council considered amending the approval process for recommendations received from the planning commission, giving the council more authority and enabling it to make changes the planning commission didn’t discuss.

The issue came up at the Feb. 4 council meeting, when Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders suggested adding to the Capital Improvement Plan properties that the previous council hadn’t sent to the planning commission for study. At the time, City Attorney Greg Rubstello said that since the council didn’t ask the planning commission to study those properties, and the planning commission didn’t make a recommendation about them, the council couldn’t add them to the CIP. Adding things after the planning commission’s public hearing wouldn’t be transparent and open to the public, Rubstello said.

Boundy-Sanders said the planning commission wanted to discuss adding the Halsey property to the CIP, but couldn’t because the council hadn’t recommended it. And because the planning commission hadn’t recommended it, the council wasn’t able to take action on it in February.
Woodinville’s zoning code says changes require a hearing before the planning commission, Boundy-Sanders said, but it also states, “Nothing in this chapter or the permit processing procedures shall limit the authority of the City Council to make changes to the city’s comprehensive plan.”

“Kirkland has dead clear language that I’ve passed out to the council and the staff before, that’s very clear that the options are approve, modify, disapprove or refer back to the planning commission,” Boundy-Sanders said. “And I am going to move that we adopt Kirkland’s language rather than the language provided to us by staff.”

Boundy-Sanders and Mayor Talmas complained that Woodinville’s proposed ordinance included the option to modify the planning commission’s recommendation, but not the options to accept, reject or refer it back.

“I would have trusted you to put in the language that we needed to — we already do accept, reject or send back to the planning commission. That’s common practice that we already do. This was just modifying it to be able to make changes,” Councilmember Liz Aspen said. “The concern I have is that ... we don’t get caught on a slippery slope, that we’re modifying and changing everything the planning commission has worked on and had public input on.”
Councilmember Scott Hageman also wanted to include public input “early and often.”
The council decided to revisit the issue later, asking staff to revise the proposed ordinance to make it more like Kirkland’s.

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