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Talmas reelected mayor as council navigates the new year

  • Written by Don Mann
In a nearly five-hour meeting that kicked off its 2012 session, the Woodinville City Council began with some housekeeping.

After the swearing-in of newcomer Les Rubstello and veterans Liz Aspen and Scott Hageman, the council got to the business of electing a mayor.

Hageman nominated Aspen. Susan Boundy-Sanders nominated incumbent Bernie Talmas, who replaced former Mayor Chuck Price who resigned early last summer.

In a 4-3 vote, Talmas was reelected and will serve a two-year term.

Aspen was then elected deputy mayor.

After breezing through a lengthy consent calendar, the council reopened the continued public hearing for Ordinance No. 524 – to amend and clarify development regulations for the downtown master plan area.

It was the 13th public hearing on the matter that has been discussed for eight months with first reading yet to be passed.

While council has reached consensus on a number of the ordinance’s complicated issues, a number of them had yet to be resolved, including the minimum residential requirement for the downtown district, proposals to encourage quality retail and residential development and, alas, the definition of “Northwest woodland character.”

Regarding the residential requirement, a nettlesome matter driven by the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) mandate to have the city provide 2,000 more dwelling units by the year 2020, the council had previously and informally agreed that new commercial buildings of more than 10,000 square feet provide no less than two residential units.

Boundy-Sanders, apparently wary that the number would not satisfy the requirement and might later affect other city neighborhoods, quickly moved to change the proposal to 10 residential units per 10,000 square feet of new retail.

“The goal of this is to get some residential where we want it to be,”  she said.

Hageman expressed concern the proposal would be too restrictive for developers.

City Manager Richard Leahy, when asked, said the staff’s recommendation was not to have any minimum residential requirement, adding that recent development proposals to the city’s available Canterbury property alone may provide up to 75 percent of the residential units required by GMA.

Boundy-Sanders’ proposal failed in a 4-3 vote, with Rubstello, Aspen, Hageman and Paulette Bauman voting against it. Council then formally approved the two units per 10,000 commercial square feet requirement, 6-1, with Boundy-Sanders opposed.

Then council scrapped the latest proposal for “quality retail development” entirely. The proposal, made by staff at council’s previous request, offered to redefine the city’s definition of “exceptional design” to include the stipulation that first floor retail use shall have a height of no less than 15 feet.

With little fanfare council unanimously adopted staff’s amendment to encourage higher quality residential development by including individual unit clothes washer and dryer hookups, fireplaces and storage space requirements for each residential unit.

It was then on to defining, once again, the term “Northwest woodland character.”

On December 13 Boundy-Sanders submitted an extensive “Business and Office District Design Standards” proposal consisting largely of her self-styled interpretation of the term. The lengthy work, replete with photographic examples, was produced without the request or approval of the council as a whole, though Talmas and Councilmember Art Pregler were asked for input.

In his report to the council, Development Services Director Hal Hart wrote the following: “While many of the examples and standards in the proposal are considerable; could potentially cause inconsistencies and incongruencies with existing code sections; and warrant review, discussion and analysis by the public. Staff recommends that this matter be referred to the Planning Commission for review and consideration.”

Aspen, annoyed by the unilateral proposal, moved immediately to pass staff’s earlier definition.

“This needs to be concise and doesn’t need to be  overdone,” she said.  “I think we’re micromanaging this and need to move on.”

The motion was later amended to include Boundy-Sanders’ document as reference, “to marry it to what staff has already done,” Aspen said, and a remand to the planning commission for final tweaking.

Boundy-Sanders said the document had already been remanded to the planning commission, which she said appeared tiresome of the item, and another remand was neither appropriate nor productive.

Bauman, also dismayed the proposal was produced and delivered without council’s consent, acknowledged some good work in the document but added “to not send it back to the planning commission circumvents the process.”

She asked the city manager for his opinion.

“If we’re changing the zoning code it should go back to the planning commission,” Leahy said.

“Councilmember Boundy-Sanders stepped outside appropriate boundaries,” Bauman concluded.  “The issue I have is not the content of the document but about the process.”

Boundy-Sanders admitted the document needed to be improved, but added the planning commission “already had a chance at this.” She then added: “I’d like to assure the public ... there was absolutely no intent to ramrod it through.”

The motion passed unanimously, and first reading of Ordinance No. 524 will resume on Jan. 24.

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