July 15, 2002
10-story buildings in Woodinville?
Interested in 10-story high buildings in downtown Woodinville? In his own words, that's the height a local developer has been "lobbying hard" for to "create enough volume for a successful project." And it won't just be one developer who jumps on this bandwagon. Once the height limit has increased, there won't be a possibility to decide we made a mistake and want to scale them back.
Think it can't happen? On July 11 a meeting for the Downtown Master Plan (DTMP) was held at City Hall to discuss revisions to the zoning code to permit increased building heights "so that the community knows what the rules are." The fact is that the rules are already in place which allow developers to build up to 45 ft. (4 stories). These building heights evolved from a public visioning process that residents hammered out several years ago. Have the residents' visions changed?
In the past couple of years the city has seen new development build 2- to 4-story buildings. Why suddenly do building heights now need to be 10 stories high, or even 8 or 6 high? Didn't these developers also want to "create enough volume for a successful project?" Successful for whom?
Now that the concept of 10-story building heights has been floated, you won't find a developer who won't ask for the same thing. Their belief is if they persist long enough, the "rules" will change for them. The strategy will be to get residents over the sticker shock of 10 stories so that they are more likely to accept 6-8 stories as a reasonable compromise. Does it mean Woodinville won't redevelop if we hold developers to 45 feet? I am not an economist or a developer, but I do see development occurring elsewhere at 45 feet. And I know that Woodinville has the "demographics" which make it very attractive to other developers.
There have been three previous DTMP meetings attended by 50-60 participants including some residents, business owners, developers and landowners. While all stakeholders should have input into the development of a vision for the downtown, neither the vision nor policy should be determined by non-resident "strong lobbying."
Do I want an economically viable city? Absolutely! Would I like to see more parks and other city amenities? Of course! Developers will tell you the only way to get these is to either increase our taxes or to let developers build "what they need" in order for us to get what we want. How can they possibly distinguish between their own self-interests and what is best for the city and its residents? Some of these "freebies" come at too high of a price
The consultant has presided over three meetings serving up a menu of vague concepts and encouraging participants to consume them without divulging the ingredients or the final bill. I am reminded that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Let the residents' vision be heard loud and clear. Do not leave it to your neighbor to participate in this as they may be leaving it to you. Please e-mail your Council members and ask them to ensure your comments are part of the official public record.
Joe Leonard, Woodinville