Local News

Downtown businesses object to proposed grid roads

Council wrestles with issue through meetings

grid roads by Jeff Switzer
   With NE 175th Street at 13 percent over capacity, intersections operating at service level "F," and injury accidents in the downtown, the City of Woodinville is taking the long look at what it can do to improve traffic flow and safety in the downtown.
   But many, other than the TRF-Pacific developers, are upset at where the proposed roads have been drawn, including downtown businesses, landowners, and residents. The Woodinville City Council held a public hearing and an additional meeting last week on the proposed grid road ordinance which would amend the grid road ordinance the city adopted by reference when it incorporated.
   The council voted 6-1, with Councilmember Saulness voting no, to have staff rewrite the ordinance to accommodate Councilmember DeYoung's proposal to break the grid road ordinance map into quadrants, allowing them to vote in favor of the less controversial roads where there are pending developments, while giving them time to think through the more difficult issues raised by citizens.
   "When the original grid roads were done, King County had a separate ordinance for each grid road, so there is a precedent," said Councilmember DeYoung.
   Both Leisure Care and TRF-Pacific are waiting to submit binding site plans until the grid road ordinance issues have been addressed by the council, as the existing road ordinance has a different configuration for both sites.
   The council is also planning a downtown walking tour of the proposed roads, allowing them to see firsthand the effects the proposed legislation may have rather than "looking at maps and site plans." Following their tour, the next quadrant they will be looking at will be the Knoll Lumber/Spady/Puzo issue of the proposed 135/136th Avenue NE.

What the city hopes the grid road ordinance will do
   The proposed ordinance focuses on redirecting the downtown traffic around NE 175th Street via additional north-south and east-west roads and a slip ramp from SR-522 which would cross NE 177th Place, the railroad tracks, and run into the proposed TRF-Pacific site.
   Designed to take the long view at where the city roads would be 20 years from now, if passed, the ordinance would affect landowners in the downtown immediately by preventing them from building structures where future roads have been drawn. Construction of a new grid road would be triggered by development or a remodel of a downtown parcel or business adjacent to a designated grid road which generates 10 or more peak hour trips to the site.
   "The existing ordinance doesn't take into consideration the council's goal of having a pedestrian-friendly downtown," said Joel Birchman, Public Services director. "The proposed ordinance will provide better access through the downtown area as well as relieve congestion."

Businesses, residents speak out
   The ordinance has location flexibility built in, but only for parcels five acres or larger, allowing a grid road to be moved 200 feet in either direction within a parcel (while still adhering to the city's road design and safety standards) or move a proposed intersection 200 feet along an existing street.
   Craig Knoll (president of Knoll Lumber), the Spady family (owners of Doug's Boats), and a representative for Charlie Puzo spoke out against the proposed 135th/136th Ave NE which would consume large percentages of their properties.
   Knoll Lumber, which has been in Woodinville for 13 years, does not qualify for the flexibility clause written into the ordinance, as their property is about two acres. "This is essentially a lose-lose situation," said Craig Knoll, a sentiment that was echoed at the hearing by his wife and several employees of the business.
   When and if the road is constructed, the easement for the road would consume Knoll's main product receiving area. An attorney representing the Knolls and the Spadys said the ordinance is premature and should be adopted after the city's Comprehensive Plan and the Capital Facilities programs are adopted.
   "This is a regulatory taking," said Jack McCullough, the attorney representing the two landowners. "This ordinance penalizes the small sites and the small businesses and prevents expansion of existing businesses."
   Also speaking against the proposed ordinance was Donald Sirkin, a downtown property owner with land north of 140th Avenue NE, who would be the recipient of a gridroad cleaving his property should he develop it.
   An attorney representing Canterbury Square also spoke against a proposed east-west road, and a resident of Canterbury spoke against a road to the south bypass that would cleave the Square.
   The council will be revisiting the ordinance at their April 8 regular session.