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Council enacts development moratorium

  • Written by Don Mann
In a hasty and unorthodox move, the Woodinville City Council passed first and second reading of  Ordinance No. 543 in one fell swoop at its Tuesday meeting to immediately impose a moratorium on single-family residential development that exceeds the base density of all applicable zoning districts within city limits.

The item had been added to the council agenda at the request of Mayor Bernie Talmas.

Alexandra Sheeks, assistant to the city manager, later confirmed Phoenix Development met with the city “a few weeks ago” but did not file a permit application.

After a brief overview of the proposed ordinance by City Manager Richard Leahy in his staff report on Tuesday, council adjourned to executive session to discuss potential litigation with legal counsel before a vote was taken.

The executive session was projected to take no more than 30 minutes, but took 90.

Upon council’s return and with no public discussion, Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders  immediately moved to pass the ordinance, stating she’d been a longtime defender of residential  neighborhoods and citing a lack of minimum lot sizes written in current city code for R-1(one unit per one acre) neighborhoods.

Councilmember Les Rubstello acknowledged he was a member of the city’s planning commission when  in September it recommended unanimously that council require all residential zones to establish minimum lot sizes.

“However, due to information presented in executive session and the legal risks, I cannot support the moratorium as it’s written,” he said.

Councilmember Scott Hageman said he’d always been in favor of preserving the integrity of Woodinville’s neighborhoods and then recused himself from the vote, citing a “personal legal risk” for himself and his family.

With no further discussion, the vote was passed 4-2, with council members Liz Aspen and Rubstello opposed.

Later during individual council reports, Aspen said the following: “I want to let the public know I do support R-1 zoning ... and I’m sure I’ll get crucified in the blogs ...  A lot was discussed in executive session and none of it we can really share with you ... There’s a lot that the public doesn’t know, as to what influenced our vote ... It was one of the hardest decisions to make.”

And then she added this: “We have a large hole in our code that should’ve been dealt with sooner but was not.”

It was an apparent reference to WMC 21.12.030, which as currently written gives developers the ability to build more units than base density allows, until the council considers the planning commission’s recommendation to revise Title 21, reviews its findings and implements a decision.

A public hearing on the moratorium, enacted for up to six months, is scheduled for March 20, 2012.

In June of 2011 the City of Woodinville and Concerned Neighbors of Wellington (CNW) emerged victorious as the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously overturned a Court of Appeals decision that determined the city illegally denied Phoenix the right to a rezone request in the two land parcels it owns in Wellington.

In 2008, in the first round of litigation, King County Superior Court ruled the city was within its rights to deny the rezone.

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