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Letters to the Editor - May 17, 2010

  • Written by Readers

Supplemental levy election

Regarding the resolution to run a supplemental levy election on August 17 for the Northshore School District:

Why doesn’t the N.S. School District start demanding the money it deserves from Washington state. Our property taxes are now approaching unaffordable by those of us who are approaching retirement. Even if our home mortgages are paid off, our taxes are typically 50 percent more than other areas outside of the N.S. District. We have seen too many of our neighbors leave King County because they can’t afford to retire here. What about the kids who live in areas where levies never pass? Do they deserve less of an education? Washington State needs to fund schools equally, so all kids receive a quality education, not just those districts who have access to residents with money. Quoting the article: "The supplemental levy is not an ideal solution to the underfunding of education at the state level." The true statement should read: It’s not a solution at all. It’s called enabling bad state behavior!

Carol Wallace, Woodinville

 

City development

Response to CM Susan Boundy-Sanders Letter to the Editor, Woodinville Weekly, April 26 edition, titled "Development by the City"

Dear Woodinville City Council:

My name is Randy Koetje, I am a city resident, providing comment on behalf of myself and CityCHORD (see citychord.com for more information on this citizens’ group). As requested by Councilmember Boundy-Sanders, I wish to address the entire council and respond to the subject letter.

The subject letter has opened a door of opportunity to express to the council the wishes and concerns of the people regarding zoning and housing choice. I appreciate this, but feel that just providing response via e-mail or public comment will be ineffective. I hope that the city is serious about pursuing answers to the questions posed in the letter, and will supplement this with town hall meetings, surveys, citizen’s panels, one-on-one meetings with neighborhood groups, etc. The subject letter has posed a lot of questions, an appropriate response could take volumes.

The subject letter appears to be in reference to Ordinance 489: 2009 Annual Docket Downtown Zoning Code/City Map Amendment, since this is an issue currently in review by the Council. This is not explicitly stated, however, so I ask that CM Boundy-Sanders clarify this so there is no misinterpretation. The letter raises issues that extend well beyond Ordinance 489 which will more than likely involve Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code updates for areas outside the Downtown/Little Bear Creek district. If the city is opening up discussion on the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code, I hope that these comments will be included as part of the public record.

My comments will be focused on one of the main questions posed, being "where do we put our population growth." I feel that the other main question of "what kind of look and feel do we want for our downtown" has successfully been conveyed through the Master Plan process. The fact that this latter question was raised makes me wonder if the city is taking a step backwards and wanting to revisit the Planning Commission’s recommendations.

With respect to population growth and residential housing, it is becoming increasingly clear that the city’s focus on just the downtown area to solve this issue will fail. The reasons for this are many:

The city’s position will effectively undermine single family detached home ownership in the city. Buildable land in the R4 and R6 zones is being consumed rapidly, the supply of new R1 homes does not seem sufficient to support demand. The general public may not be willing to accept a cultural shift of new homeownership meaning only multi-family housing downtown.

There is an opportunity now for Woodinville to be a leader in providing residential neighborhoods that utilize energy efficient and environmentally friendly working concepts into practical housing applications. This will require that the Comprehensive Plan support this throughout the city and not just focus on one area such as the downtown.

Population growth downtown will be in the form of mixed use or multi-family housing only. This totally ignores the market for single family detached housing. Any solution on population growth must include the detached housing element since this is critical for providing attractive housing choices for existing and future residents. Not providing flexibility to increase housing density in existing neighborhoods is a lost opportunity to responsibly manage growth.

As stated or implied in the letter, developers interested in projects downtown may not be as interested as the city in providing housing units as part of the project. Since part of the GMA process is to monitor actual housing units built (see additional comments below), it could be of significant financial detriment to the city if housing units downtown don’t come to fruition.

Downtown there are not enough existing shops, museums, malls, theaters, restaurants, bowling alleys, transportation hubs, etc. to create a "mini Bellevue," which would then support the mixed use housing element. For Woodinville, it’s a wild card and a risk for someone to purchase a residence when it is unknown what is going in next door. Another consideration is that cities with successful mixed use also have a very strong market for single family detached housing which offers significant and necessary support to local businesses and services in the downtown.

The question is posed "Do we put our growth downtown or increase density in existing neighborhoods?"

I propose that this is not an "either or" situation. Rather, market conditions will dictate that housing growth be accommodated in both the downtown and existing neighborhoods. The market will also dictate the proportions. Zoning codes must be flexible to allow this. The issue here is providing attractive and diverse housing choices for our citizens and future citizens, throughout the city. The city should realize that it is in stiff competition with other cities to attract residents. Selective housing choices throughout the city will be key.

Our school districts are heavily dependent on new single family housing to maintain student enrollment. Single family housing brings in almost six times as many students as multi-family (ref: "Northshore School Enrollment and Demographic Trends," December 2007, page 4, available on citychord.com Reference Material tab). The same support may be true of our utility and fire districts.

The R4 and R6 areas are already being "maxed out" at eight housing units or more per acre (ref: citychord.com Housing Data tab). Any upzone there is to multi-family. I sincerely hope the council is not proposing multi-family in the R4 and R6 zones, at the expense of keeping R1 at R1. The question should be posed to the non-R1 community: "Do you want multi-family in your neighborhood, or should the R1 accept upzoning to true R4 (9,000 sq. ft. lots minimum)?" The city should be very clear that upzoning is applicable to only the R1 zone, since the R4 and R6 zones are already under tremendous pressure with dwindling land capacity.

Recent Growth Management Act updates (February 2010), in particular 365-196-300 Urban Density, 365-196-305 County-wide Planning Policies and 365-196-330 Phasing Development within the UGA, are making it increasingly clear that allowing infill and higher densities (not to exceed R4) in the R1 are preferred over perpetuating R1 housing. The good news is that this infill does not have to look like the Montevello and Wood Trails models. In fact, there’s a good case for stating that low density infill in the R1 would be indistinguishable from what exists today, with proper planning and zoning code enforcement. This will require substantial revisions to our current single family zoning codes, which at the moment are producing only one unit per acre homes and eight unit per acre homes.

It is time for Woodinville to take an aggressive stance in addressing residential housing growth. The model of having a modern regional growth center downtown surrounded by mostly one dwelling unit per acre homes does not appear to be sustainable. The good news is that at a grassroots level, there is a middle ground to be investigated between leaving things as they are (perpetuating R1) versus bumper to bumper housing (professional developers who wish to maximize return on investment). The middle ground involves existing homeowners and citizens throughout Woodinville in developing concepts and guidelines for the creation of sustainable and diverse communities in residential neighborhoods via proactive and responsible planning and development in accordance with city-appropriate densities and infrastructure to ensure the environmental, economic, social and aesthetic future of Woodinville. The advantage with involving existing homeowners is that in general they have a vested interest in the city, and they already own the land which is a huge financial advantage over professional developers. United we can achieve this vision.

I’m very interested in discussing further the "wide consensus" among citizens regarding upzoning. It seems we have heard a strong opinion from a certain group in the R1 zone, but it is not clear that this voice represents the entire city. The city council has gone on record to concentrate residential growth downtown, but again it is not clear that this represents the wishes of the people. In order to obtain and understand any consensus, it will first be necessary to define what upzoning means. Upzoning R6 to multi-family means something much different than upzoning R1 to R4.

In the R1, many people are against upzoning because their perception is that the next step up from one dwelling unit per acre is eight dwelling units per acre. This is what we have experienced in the city since at least 2002 (ref: citychord.com Housing Data). For example, people see a piece of land in a R4 zoned area that used to be trees and then see bumper-to- bumper houses built on it. People tend to ignore the adjoining piece of land that was spared on the cliff or wetland behind the new houses, even though it was used in area calculations to show the density per acre met the zoning code.

The end result is that people see 5,000 sq. foot or smaller lots and understand this as a "R4 upzone." What is lost in translation is the transfer density credit process that developers exploit to maximize profits. In the R1 in particular, there is a lot of middle ground to explore between a 43,560 sq. foot lot and a 5,000 sq. foot lot.

There are some very viable and regionally responsible alternatives that will meet the economic, environmental, tree canopy preservation, neighborhood character and quality-of-life tests. There is a growing movement in the city to discuss and study these issues and accept infill densities particularly in the R1. At the same time we can provide relief of building pressures in the R4 and R6 zones. Does the city have the courage and fortitude to explore these alternatives? Is the city willing to accept a more regionally responsible stance on housing growth?

I’d like to make final comment to a couple statements made in the subject letter, to which I took exception.With respect to state and federal grant funding, this is not contingent on just "creating capacity for more homes in Woodinville." The GMA involves monitoring of achieved density and actual number of dwelling units constructed, so it is important to distinguish this from land-carrying capacity.

Creating capacity for planning purposes is much different from market conditions that drive the housing industry. The city can "create" capacity downtown, but if these dwelling units are not built and occupied, the consequences will be dire. We will all feel it in the pocket book.

Randy Koetje, Woodinville resident

 

Construction noise

On behalf of the Washington State Department of Transportation I want to provide you with a response to a copy of the letter written by Renee and Travis Mosley to us and published in your publication. First let me give you some background.

Both Renee Mosley and her neighbor Andrea contacted us recently with their concerns. Andrea contacted us on April 23, 2010, and Renee contacted us on April 26. We responded to both Mrs. Mosley and her neighbor Andrea on April 28, 2010, with the following letter addressed to Andrea and copied to the Mosley’s.

Hi Andrea,

I just spoke with Renee on the phone a moment ago after she called me. I’ve been in meetings and went out to the project site today to talk with our project team about the construction noise. I gave Renee a large amount of information, so to make sure we are clear and you both have the same information, I’m writing you this e-mail in response.

First, I would like to apologize with the original response I sent you about the noise study. I misunderstood your location in relation to the project and was referencing the noise study conducted for the homes in the northbound direction.

In regards to a noise wall, because there is no increase in traffic or capacity in the southbound direction near your home, an environmental analysis (which includes a noise study) has not been conducted in your area. However, an environmental analysis is scheduled for your area as we look into a future project for the southbound direction of I-405. This analysis is tentatively scheduled for fall of this year and will allow an opportunity for you to provide input on the assessment.

If you would like to receive updates for work in your area and additional notification of the open house for your area, please sign up for our weekly list serv. This service provides weekly updates in regards to WSDOT construction and other work. To sign up, you can follow this link: https://service.govdelivery.com/service/multi_subscribe.html?code=WADOT . Once you enter the e-mail address you would like to receive notifications to, you can customize the types of e-mail notifications you will receive.

We understand your frustration about the construction noise and our crews are working on reducing noise as much as possible. The noise you heard last night was from guardrail installation on southbound I-405. This work is unavoidably noisy, but we have sound mufflers on all the equipment being used and doing as much as we can to keep the noise down. The flashing lights must be used for safety reason for our crews. More information and construction schedule can be found here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i405/ne195thtosr527nb/

Our mechanics will double check our equipment to sure everything is working properly and that our machinery is not creating any excess noise.

Our project inspector will be in your neighborhood tonight to observe tonight’s work from your perspective. In addition, we will be use noise shields to help alleviate some noise, but because of the nature of the work, the topography of the area, and the narrow work zone, we do not expect the noise shields to provide any substantial relief from the construction noise.

We’re also looking at the possibility of doubling our crews in the coming days to try to get the work done more quickly, but we do expect the guardrail work to continue for approximately two weeks. This work must be done at night because it requires a lane closure and any lane closure in the day would have a significant impact to traffic.I understand your frustration, but this work is temporary and will be moving along the corridor over the next several weeks. We do offer industrial earplugs if you feel you should need them.

I received a phone call last night from one of your neighbors but he did not leave a name or number, but if you would like to share this information with your community, hopefully this can answer some of their concerns. If you don’t feel there is any improvement to the construction noise, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you for writing, please let me know if there is anything else I can provide for you. I can be reached at (425) 456-8617 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/i405/.

Sandy Lam. WSDOT Public Information - I-405 Corridor Program

 

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