APRIL 7, 1997

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Local News

Council reviews civic center survey

civic center survey by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter
Results of a telephone survey of Woodinville residents concerning the location of City Hall and a community center were presented at last week's City Council meeting. If purchasing the Sorenson complex from the Northshore School District could be done without raising taxes, fifty-one percent of the respondents favored buying it for use as City Hall, and 41 percent supported buying it for a community center, according to the survey.
   Robert Head of Bosma and Associates International, Inc. outlined the City Hall and Community Center Feasibility Study, collected in the seven-day, 403-person interview survey.

City Hall
   According to the data collected on city hall, 86 percent of those surveyed said that it needed a permanent location. Sixty-six percent of that block said it was important to have city hall downtown. Ranked first in respondents' preferences for a city hall site was the Sorenson complex. A three-acre site the city bought in October, 1996 along 133rd Avenue NE behind Sorenson ranked second.
   The survey generated comments from the respondents. "We need a center for a city, and a place where people can conduct business. Having it in a landmark-type of building adds definition to the city," was one response.
   Currently, the city is leasing space in the Sorenson complex from the Northshore School District. The lease will expire in 1999. "It seems weird for a city to be renting property from someone else," was one comment.
   "The newer they [the residents] are, the stronger they feel City Hall should be downtown," Head said of the data's implications.
   If City Hall were to be at the Sorenson complex, respondents' first preference was split between renovating and restoring the buildings (37 percent) and bringing the buildings up to code only (37 percent). As second preference, 41 percent favored bringing the building only up to code. Sixty-two percent of respondents third preference was to demolish and rebuild Sorenson.
   "The larger the household, the more they are inclined to say do a little more [than just bring the buildings up to code]," Head said, regarding demographic breakdown of the data.

Community Center
   Regarding the development of a community center, two-thirds of the respondents said Woodinville needed a place for youth, teen, and family-oriented activities. Opposition to a community center was related to cost and perception of enough available options for children and parents. One response was, "We have a YMCA, the Hollywood School House, and other community areas around here. We don't need another one, and we don't have the tax base to pay for it."
   Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said it was important for Woodinville to have a community center downtown, but less than one-third said it needed to be adjacent to city hall. Forty-five percent of respondents said Sorenson was their first choice for a community center, and 45 percent said the city's three-acre lot was their second chioice.
   Asked to rank their preferences on what to do with the buildings at Sorenson in regard to a community center, 41 percent said their first preference was to renovate and restore the buildings to a greater extent, and 31 percent recommended bringing the buildings up to code. Second preference was to bring the building up to code only, which 45 percent suggested. Demolishing and rebuilding was third preference with 62 percent.

Future action
   A third section of the survey asked residents to give the city guidance for future action. In the past, two bond issues, one for $7.5 million and another for $6 million, raising money to purchase Sorenson and develop it as a City Hall and community center, failed to get the needed 60 percent for approval.
   Forty percent of respondents said the two bond issues were voted down because people didn't want to pay more taxes or spend more money. Twenty-nine percent said the city plans involved too much money. One response was, "People are scared of paying more money. They are worried that they will be overtaxed even more."
   When asked whether they would support a City Hall without raising taxes, 51 percent supported purchasing and bringing Sorenson up to code, 22 percent supported developing the three-acre site, and 16 percent supported purchasing and constructing new buildings and facilities at the Sorenson site.
   Asked if they would support a community center if the city could do it without raising taxes, 41 percent said they would support purchasing and bringing Sorenson up to code, 23 percent supported developing the three-acre site, and 20 percent supported purchasing and constructing new buildings and facilities on the Sorenson site. "This underscores the feeling that City Hall comes before the community center," Head said.
   The city has a purchase option for the complex that expires December 31, 1997.

Council reaction to the survey
   "The community response was clear, but we wanted to go back and study it. We also want to sit down with the school district and discuss options for securing the site," City Manager Joe Meneghini said.
   "I heard loud and clear the people want us to buy Sorenson at least for City Hall," said Councilmember Lucy DeYoung after Head's presentation.
   "My impression is that people are interested in preserving and utilizing the old Sorenson complex," said Councilmember Barbara Solberg.
   "The main thing is to get the site and maintain the site. If we lose that, it's gone forever and we'll never get another downtown site," Mayor Bob Miller said.
   "It's imperative to me that we thoroughly discuss where the money is going to come from to finance these improvements. I don't want to see capital improvement funds jeopardized or human services programs weakened," Councilmember Marsha Engel said.
   There was a margin of error of +/- 5 percent in the survey, according to Marie Stake, community services coordinator.