Northwest NEWS

September 21, 1998

Local News

City considers grid road

Fire district closes on Knoll deal

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The intent of municipal code has been met, and a top city official says Woodinville doesn't see the need for a public road through three properties in the downtown core. For now.
   The news came from Mayor Don Brocha the day after the City Council pondered a north-south connector between N.E. 175th St. and the Woodinville-Snohomish Road.
   "The plainest statement to make is that we looked at a road versus a continuous driveway and didn't see a need for a road," Brocha said.
   The Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District has now gone ahead with plans to buy the Knoll property for $2.5 million, according to Fire Chief Steve Smith. Closing had been delayed while the road issue was investigated.
   The road was a hot topic even before last week's council meeting. Potential roadway alignments a staff report detailed stirred property owners and a real estate agent to action.
   A letter signed by the Spadys (who own the land Doug's Boats is on), the Bell's (whose tenants include Chevron and Simon and Sons) and Craig Knoll said what the city proposed "would have a financial impact which would be impossible for any of us, or the City of Woodinville, to absorb."
   They own land in what's called the "Special Study Area" between TRF, the US Post Office and the Woodgate Mall. Under Ordinance 147, the city is to "consider" the need for a 68-foot road in the study area before it issues building or development permits.
   Sparking consideration this time was the fire board's vote to purchase the Knoll property. City staff had gone to the council looking for direction on how to proceed with road issues when the district comes to them with plans for their new station, headquarters and training field. Land would have been set aside for an eventual "grid road" rather than one being built immediately, according to Deborah Knight, interim public works director.
   But in their letter, property owners asked that the city honor another agreement that allows for a private driveway to connect the properties, similar to the one in the shopping mall behind Las Margaritas, "otherwise we will all be forced into a lengthy and costly litigation."
   Chief Smith had said that the district could live with a small amount of property loss from a grid road, but at least two of the city's options running through the middle made the land useless for them.
   After an hour of discussion it was apparent the City Council was split on grid roads. While some members ardently said they were only doing their job, others said they were unsure of the need for a street.
   "Do we really know the need for this?" Councilman Randy Ransom questioned. While city staff say year 2010 traffic counts on N.E. 175th St. are being met already, it isn't yet clear whether a street from Simon and Sons to Knoll would help downtown circulation. The city is awaiting a consultant's new traffic model that will show whether a public street is needed in that vicinity. It is expected out next spring.
   "The City Council has to meet the needs of the city," Brocha argued. "To say we don't need a road through there wouldn't be doing our job."
   He said his philosophy wasn't to force things on city residents and businesses, but deal with changes when redevelopment occurs.
   But Ransom felt comfortable with new connections in town. "TRF took care of those needs, certainly in my eyes."
   He confided that he wasn't in favor of grid roads, terming them "an undue hardship... the sort of thing that [upsets] people about government."
   Councilwoman Barbara Solberg had a similar position.
   "I would have preferred we change the ordinance" to avoid the repetition of going through the same proceedings each time development comes up in the special study area, she said.
   Like Ransom, Solberg says the city already has options around the downtown for motorists such as the North and South Bypasses, N.E. 177th St., and said a traffic light coordination system would be in effect soon.
   "Let's give what we have an opportunity to work first," she said.
   According to Public Works Chief Knight, traffic counts on N.E. 175th St. in 1998 show 20,000 cars a day. Previously, the city had estimated it wouldn't be until 2010 that 20,900 vehicles would travel the street.
   For now Knight said the direction staff will take is to use the zoning code and interim design principles to get a better connection in place based on the agreement property owners cited in their letter. Downtown grid roads have been a heated topic since King County established them before Woodinville incorporated.