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City council to hold a retreat for team-building, policy issues and priorities

  • Written by Don Mann
For the first time ever, the members of the Woodinville City Council will hold a retreat to discuss 2012 policy issues and priorities with a focus on “team-building.”

Some members of the council had recently expressed interest in conducting a half-day workshop on a Saturday, at a site other than council chambers, with an independent outside facilitator. The objective of the workshop is to help the council explore ways to improve working together, improve communication and make council meetings more efficient and effective.

The retreat will be held on Saturday, March 10 from 8 a.m. till noon, at a conference meeting room in Redmond.

The cost of the retreat, according to City Manager Richard Leahy, is in the area of $2,000 to $3,000.

The cost apparently pays for the outside facilitator alone, as the conference room is free of charge.

Council members will pay for their own food and refreshments.

The meeting is open to the public, though the address has yet to be made available.

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders said she was “uneasy” spending that amount of taxpayers’ money on the retreat.

Mayor Bernie Talmas said he was less concerned with “team-building”  than in learning how to operate more efficiently as a council.

Nevertheless, with a head nod the council has elected to proceed.

City staff has identified four major issues it believes should be discussed by the council.

They include establishing a sustainable financial plan for the organization; clarifying the role of Woodinville’s city government; establishing an attractive and sustainable business environment and building strategic infrastructure.

In its report, city staff expanded on its recommended discussion items.

On establishing a sustainable financial plan: “Even with recent budget-balancing actions and some projected new development, operating expenditures will likely exceed operating revenues sometime within the next six years. This situation could occur sooner depending on negative impacts from current state budget-balancing actions, additional delays in new development, cost increases greater or sooner that anticipated, etc. Our expenditure projections assume that no new employee or programs are added. Staff recommends that city council discuss alternatives and adopt a sustainable financial approach that will reliably fund on-going operations.”

On clarifying the role of Woodinville city government: “We formally reassess our role when there is a change in elected leadership, and when resources become scarcer. Given the current economic conditions, which are likely to continue for some time, we request that city council identify whether it has any desire to discontinue or reduce any existing programs/services, or to expand or establish any new programs/services. There are numerous worthy and beneficial programs and services the city can provide, however, we cannot be everything to everyone. We should define our role (services and programs); determine which are priorities; and focus on providing those priorities.”

On establishing an attractive and sustainable business environment:  “...We are emerging from a very difficult and negative economic environment that has produced little new development or increased tax revenues. We have two large development projects that are stalled and one relatively large retail center without an anchor. Our neighboring cities have adopted redevelopment plans for their downtowns that are very similar to ours. Once the economy turns around, those communities with the most desirable or predictable development environments will likely attract and secure desired development for their downtown.

“We have been working on our downtown development regulations for the better part of 11 years, most recently passing new regulations in 2010, after 11 months of public hearings.

“Additionally, we’ve spent the past nine months reviewing an ordinance to clarify or change some of those new regulations.

“Making continual changes and adding layers of complexity makes us increasingly less attractive than our neighboring cities, and less able to attract the types of projects and businesses that will be successful in Woodinville. We should discuss the potential impacts of making continual changes in our development regulations to determine whether they correctly position us to be competitive in attracting development to Woodinville.”

On building strategic infrastructure: “To achieve our community goals and vision, and to remain competitive and attractive, the city must put in place the strategic infrastructure, as well as regulatory, programmatic, and community support systems that are sustainable. In the area of physical capital infrastructure controlled by the city, we have identified the following projects that we feel are critical to the future success of the city:

“Transportation projects including widening the Sammamish Bridge; widening Woodinville-Duvall Road; widening the trestle; creating downtown grid roads; resolving access to Northwest Gateway Area and widening Woodinville-Snohomish Road.

“Parks projects include creating a non-motorized trail along Rail Corridor (turns eyesore into community asset); constructing a trail head with parking lot at Woodin Creek Park; rehab DeYoung Park to make more usable and constructing a Tourist District trail loop to the central business district and back.”

City staff also reminded council of the need for private rehabilitation and reuse of the Old Woodinville School, suggesting construction of centralized structured parking with a public plaza and lawn deck.

Citizens interested in attending the council retreat should contact City Hall at (425) 489-2700 for its precise location.

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