August 12, 2002
Speak up or change the city motto
I read with interest the article "Woodinville's changing downtown landscape" in the July 22 edition of the Woodinville Weekly. I attended three of the four Downtown Master Plan workshop meetings and have followed closely this plan and the Little Bear Creek Corridor Plan developments.
As a Woodinville resident and taxpayer, I would like to provide my fellow city taxpayers my observations of these plans and the process used to generate them so they have a more complete understanding of the priorities the city is proposing to set for their tax dollars and quality of life.
Unlike other city planning activities which have solicited and received significant Woodinville citizen input, the Downtown and Little Bear Creek plans have been managed by city-hired consultants. (Your tax dollars hard at work!)
To solicit "community" input, the consultants hosted a series of workshops, open to anyone who cared to attend. So, as you can imagine, much of the "community" input came from out-of-town developers, land owners and their boosters who have a major economic interest in ensuring that the "community" input, and therefore the plans, reflect their desires.
In the workshops, the "citizens" did not support five-story buildings as the article implies. In fact, building heights were addressed only in the final Downtown workshop, and there was healthy debate (as there should be) about whether five-story buildings and their impacts on traffic and quality of life were a good thing or not for downtown Woodinville.
By the way, the consultants did not solicit any downtown design ideas from the community. Instead, they presented a series of their own design options for the workshop attendees to vote on. These options were really nothing more than variations of a single idea, as if to ensure a particular outcome regardless of actual input received.
In the article, a city representative states that it is not "economical" to develop at the current height restriction of 45'(the actual height restriction is 35') and that the "economical" height is 55' or 67'. However, earlier in the article it states that there are 918 permits in process at City Hall.
Well, will someone please tell the people who have submitted the 918 building permits now in process at City Hall that current regulations make it NOT ECONOMICAL to develop in Woodinville! The healthy permitting activity at City Hall does not indicate that developers won't develop at current building height restrictions. However, I can certainly understand that a plan that allows such a leap in building height would make it much more "economical" (i.e. profitable) for developers and property owners.
The city representative goes on to say that not only are higher buildings required to make development in Woodinville "economical," but that these higher buildings will "help pay for the public improvements that people want, such as parks, open space and pedestrian trails." That is like saying that gasoline taxes paid by newcomers to the Puget Sound help pay for regional transportation improvements. Yet we pay the 1996 RTA tax and now may have R-51 to fill an ever-widening transportation improvement gap.
Be assured that the taxpayers of Woodinville will be asked to pay their fair share to relieve the infrastructure strain high-rise buildings would place on downtown traffic and amenities. Indeed, the consultant's funding plan includes taxpayer-funded downtown grid roads and a taxpayer-funded municipal parking garage to subsidize the traffic impacts and parking needs of the high rises.
Fellow citizens of Woodinville, according to the article, we apparently will soon receive a color graphic mailer and have a chance to comment on features of the proposed plans. I'm sure you will be impressed by the images of parks, trails and orderly grid roads shown on the plan.
You will be asked if you like parks, trails and orderly grid roads. Before responding "yes," ask yourself: Who will pay for these parks, trails and orderly grid roads? (You) When will we see these parks, trails and orderly grid roads? (In a very long time, if ever) Do high-rise buildings match your vision of a friendly, inviting downtown Woodinville? (I doubt it) Can you imagine the downtown traffic mess this plan will generate? (Think of downtown Bellevue but with fewer, narrower streets)
My issue is not whether downtown needs a plan for the future. It does. However, the plan should reflect an appropriate balance between the economic interests of the development community and the vision and values of the city's citizens who will be paying, in quality of life and tax dollars, for the impacts of the plan long after the developers leave town. This plan clearly does not strike that balance. If you think, as I do, that this plan should be scrapped and that the city should start over with real community input, say so in your response! Let the City Council know your concerns through a comment on the city web site: www.ci.woodinville.wa.us or voice mail at (425) 489-2700. Otherwise, prepare to see a change in the city motto from "Country Living, City Style!" to "City Living, Bellevue Style!"
Len McNally, Woodinville