Northwest NEWS

September 9, 2002

Editorial

Get involved with the Downtown and Little Bear Creek Master Plan

From Woodinville City Manager Pete Rose
   Several letters to the editor have been published in the past few weeks identifying concerns about the City of Woodinville's current efforts in the Downtown and Little Bear Creek Corridor Master Plans. The City is in the process of preparing a master plan for these areas. This integrated plan will have a big influence on the future of how these areas look, feel and work for many years to come. That's why it's important for Woodinville residents, businesses and property owners to be informed and be involved as the plan goes forward through the public review and decision making process. The City Council recognizes that Woodinville is your city. The City Council recognizes there are potential features of a revitalized downtown that will spark debate. We encourage this debate in order to help shape a vital and inviting community. As a draft plan is developed, you are invited to plug into the process and to stay involved until it is adopted. We encourage you to read on and find out how.
   This planning process has its origin in the Comprehensive Plan (Comp Plan) vision for a "... compact inviting downtown that is attractive and functional." In order to implement this vision, the Comp Plan states that the City should conduct a master plan "to encourage and attract the type of development the comprehensive plan envisions." This is a broad and somewhat vague statement that is worthy of a Comp Plan, but lacks sufficient detail to provide adequate direction. This is why the master plan is being developed. The goal of the plan is to identify ways in which the downtown vision can be implemented. Whether or not the implementation measures are realistic or require potential tradeoffs is a question that will be answered as part of the master plan review and approval process following the workshop series. For example, the Comp Plan contains a goal to "encourage and achieve multi-story mixed-uses in the downtown mixed-use area." However, since this goal was first adopted in the 1996 Comp Plan, not a single such mixed-use project has been developed in downtown. "Why?" is a fair question and accordingly, the master plan process can help the community focus on this as well as other issues such as traffic circulation and pedestrian amenities.
   It is important to understand that it still early in the process and nothing has been decided. From the beginning, the City has sought to involve as much of the community as possible to ensure the planning concepts brought forward were reflective of community input. Therefore, the initial approach taken was a community-based planning process using public workshops to openly discuss and rate ideas put forward by the community, City staff and a consultant team. This process has worked with over 200 people attending the five pubic workshops since January of this year, including 129 different individuals with 75 percent representing Woodinville residents, businesses or property owners. This will result in a draft plan prepared by the staff and consultants. If the draft is done correctly, it will raise issues that stretch interests and possibly sensibilities. If it doesn't spark public debate, then the necessary exchange of ideas is not taking place. It is this public discussion that can help take Woodinville from what it is to what it can be. After the community talks about what Woodinville can be, then the City Council can adjust and adopt a plan to guide future development in downtown Woodinville.
   Authors of the previous letters have correctly identified some of the issues as building height, additional traffic and the cost of public improvements. To that, I freely add the issues of downtown population density, the potential role of transit-oriented development, balancing environmental and development interests along the two creeks, and a massive re-zone in the Little Bear Creek area. Indeed, the community has a lot to talk about. That is why I prefer not to spend ink disagreeing with some of the questionable facts and interpretations of the previous authors about building permits, road projects and flawed process. I would rather agree with what I believe is their basic premise - get involved. The capstone of this year's State of the City address was a re-write of the old Timothy Leary mantra: "Turn on, tune in and get involved." There are no fewer than seven master planning processes at work in the city this year, and none is more important to the future of Woodinville than this one. See below for ways you can plug into the process or simply watch in your mailbox.
   When I say it is still early in the process, it should be understood that this is a "sub-area plan," in planner's lingo. A sub-area plan details out issues of land use in a specific area. This is not the kind of plan that will breeze through the City Council on an up or down vote. This will require a detailed review and recommendation by the Planning Commission. The members are energized and excited about the prospect of doing this. Several items will also require a detailed review of relevant aspects by the Parks & Recreation Commission. Then, it will get a detailed review by an open-minded City Council that is committed to taking all of the time necessary to make sure Woodinville gets an outstanding final product. Why? The improvements that come out of this plan will affect the community for at least a couple of generations. We simply have to get it right.
   The process is continuing with a series of outreach opportunities to be held at local businesses with staff and commissioners on hand to talk about the master plan. Another upcoming effort is a mailing to be sent to every postal address in Woodinville. The mailer will contain a graphic, an explanation of features of the draft plan, and a postage paid return postcard for people to send their comments on the plan back to the City. We encourage you to read and respond to the mailer and to be open and honest about what you see and what you feel is missing. While this outreach goes on, the process is entering more formal review by the commissions and City Council.
   Upcoming public involvement opportunities:
   Sept. 10 —Planning Commission Outreach; Top Foods 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
   Sept. 12 —Planning Commission Outreach, Barnes & Noble 5 - 7 p.m.
   Sept. 16 — Mailer and response card to every Woodinville address
   Oct. 2 — Planning Commission work session 7 p.m.
   Oct. 3 —Parks and Recreation Commission work session 7 p.m.
   Oct, 16 —Planning Commission open house 5-7 p.m.
   —Joint meeting of Planning Commission and Parks and Rec. Commission 7 p.m.
   Nov. 6 — Planning Commission public hearing 7:30 p.m.
   Nov. - Dec. — City Council review, decision time frame