Downtown development discussed again; larger police presence secured

  • Written by Don Mann
Despite the excused absences of Scott Hageman, Chuck Price and Bernie Talmas, the Woodinville City Council continued the public hearing for Ordinance No. 524 that amends and clarifies development regulations for the Downtown/ Little Bear Creek Master Plan at its July 5 meeting.

Back in May the council formally opened the public hearing for Ordinance No. 524, and six items were remanded back to the planning commission and city staff for clarification of specific language definitions and other minutiae.

Zoning Code Amendment (ZCA) 11006 deals with the definition of exceptional design; ZCA 11007 sets aside 10 percent of residential development in the Pedestrian Core for affordable housing; ZCA 11008 deals with large format retail store standards which include raised pedestrian pathways, scaled lighting and sheltering roofs with accessible covered seating and landscaping that includes a water feature or public art; ZCA 11009 further defines the term "Northwest Woodland Character;" ZCA 11010 amends the development services director’s criteria in decision-making to include a written record of all consultations on a given project; and ZCA 11011 deals with the minimum residential requirement for the pedestrian core — and this one created the most concern.

The planning commission recommends that development on lots less than 20,000 square feet must be residential above the second floor, while the city staff recommends no mandatory requirement for residential density.

Councilmember Jeff Glickman asked the reason for city’s staff’s stance.

"We’re concerned at the staff level that the language of the code could stifle development," City Manager Richard Leahy said. "We think it’s particularly detrimental to the smaller projects," he added, citing concerns about attracting mixed-use developers willing to purchase, build and finance projects under such constraints.

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders expressed concern that lack of a minimum residential requirement in the pedestrian core could jeopardize the city’s mandate to add 1,000 units downtown.

"This is alarming to me because we’re so committed to not upzoning our neighborhoods," she said. "Our consultant told us a vibrant downtown means a thousand units downtown ... We know they’re not going to go in the east frame, we’re pretty sure they’re not gonna go in the transition zone, by law we’ve prohibited them in the General Business District (GBD) and we won’t have them in the civic district. Where are we going to get them?"

The rhetorical question was not answered directly, though Development Services Director Hal Hart in a PowerPoint presentation answered some specific related questions posed at the previous meeting: There are a total of 69.94 acres in the pedestrian core design district, or about 40 percent of the GBD. There are 12 lots under 20,000 square feet in the pedestrian core. (The Big Fish Grill’s lot, Hart added for example, is almost exactly 20,000 square feet.) The total acreage of those 12 lots is 3.8 acres, or about 5 percent of the GBD. Hart said it was possible that owners of larger lots could dodge the housing requirement by sub-dividing and added that mixed-use development has been a "hard sell" to developers.

"We’re having a hard time marrying the retail guy to the housing guy because they aren’t coming in together," he said. "Most developers do not do the mixed-use that we’re after. They either want to do apartments or they want to do retail."

Was the city likely to achieve it’s 1,000 downtown unit goal?

"People call all the time in terms of (wanting to build) housing," he said. The lack of permit activity, he said, is a function of land prices and the city’s parking issues. "The fact that we want structured parking and mixed-use retail are all major concerns for developers," he said. "They don’t want to meet the other goals other than building apartments. Hopefully we’ll get the development community in here that wants to do both. The problem is they are focused on just residential (development) right now."

The public hearing regarding Ordinance No. 524 will resume at the July 19 council meeting.

Later the council voted unanimously to approve a facilities-use agreement with the King County Sheriff’s Office to house law enforcement personnel serving neighboring unincorporated areas at the city’s police station.

KCSO is undergoing some reorganizations and consolidations of its precinct offices, including closure of the Kenmore Precinct Office that serves Woodinville and surrounding areas.

A total of 18 law enforcement employees — but only three to five at any one time — will work out of the City Hall facility.

The county will pay about $58,000 for the use of a secured evidence room and will set up a BAC (blood alcohol content) breathalyzer machine at the station.

According to Leahy, "housing" additional personnel provides a number of benefits, including higher uniformed law enforcement presence, time savings in evidence and prisoner transports and improved communication and coordination between the city and unincorporated deputies out on patrol.

"We expect that such an arrangement will improve Woodinville’s police services to our citizens and reduce costs," Leahy said.



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