“I still don’t know my way around town that well, but it’s a nice community — nice design and the people are really pleasant,” Kuhl said. “I’ve been accepted well from the people I have met. People are really helpful and I’m really glad I’m here. They’re really trying to help me succeed which is nice.”
Kuhl’s previous job was community development director in Arlington, where he still resides and now commutes two hours round trip each day to Woodinville. In August, after five years at the post, he was laid off because of budget constraints.
“That was tough, but it’s happening everywhere,” he said.
These days he’s staying plenty busy helping to update the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
“That’s the big project right now,” he said. “We’ll begin the amendment process in 2013.”
He said it’s a two-year project to develop a vision for Woodinville using consultants, public meetings and outreach, and it involves analyzing data, including demographics, employment, transportation and land use.
“The previous Comprehensive Plan was done back in 2002, so we have some updating to do. Maybe the community has changed and we have to see if the old vision is still what they want.”
He said the idea was to determine goals and develop a plan that extends to 2030 and to ensure the plan is consistent with King County and Snohomish County goals and policies.
Another big project on the horizon is digitizing the massive collection of plans that fill a storage room at City Hall.
“There’s a lot of plans in hard copy sitting around we need to digitize so we can retrieve them quicker,” he said. “That will save a lot of staff time retrieving public information requests. One of the goals we have is to speed up permit applications; eventually we’ll get to where we can do it electronically to try to help our customers and save time.”
Kuhl was asked his first impressions of the city.
“The overall feel of the town is something I really like,” he said. “Nice design … pedestrian-oriented downtown is real nice. The wine country is an interesting industrial component, which also serves as a tourist component. One thing that might help is if we could recruit more hotels that could possibly capture some of that tourist business — affordable hotels where if you can get people to stay overnight you’ll have a greater chance of people shopping locally. If they stay more than one day, that’s what you’re looking for.”
Are these good days to be in the city development business?
Kuhl, a genial guy with a sense of humor, laughed out loud at the question.
“I’ll say it’s challenging. It’s been a tough last five years and cities everywhere have cut personnel.
“It’s been tough for investors and homeowners as well. But I have a positive outlook and feel like things are starting to come back.”
And what about that commute? Any plans to move closer to town?
“It’s getting better with some improvements on Highway 9. I’m getting used to it. I’ll probably stay there for a year and then evaluate it.”