September 16, 2002
AWR works to strengthen influence of city residents
by Jeanette Knutson
In a letter to the editor last week, Woodinville City Manager Pete Rose invited Woodinville citizenry to "plug into the (Downtown and Little Bear Creek Master Plan) process and stay involved until it is adopted."
That is exactly what the newly formed Alliance of Woodinville Residents (AWR) intends to do.
And they hope others will join them.
AWR is an independent citizen-based organization, not part of the City of Woodinville's governing body. They are community members who have concerns about plans for the future of Woodinville, but they're not hanging their hat on the single "master plan" issue.
At the Alliance's first public meeting, some attendees voiced concern about the proposed Brightwater sewage plant and its potential proximity to the city's tourist district. Others expressed concerns about traffic, about the skimpily portioned parking stalls in citywide parking lots, about the perception that business and developers tend to get the ear of City Hall, more so than individual residents.
Some attendee comments sounded like this:
"I like the small-town feel (of Woodinville) and I don't want tall buildings. I'm (at this AWR meeting) to collect information," said a five-year resident of the Wellington neighborhood.
A 12-year Woodinville resident said, "I feel like a lot of things go on in city government that fly under the radar screen. ... I like to go to the big city, but I like to live in a small city."
One woman said, "I've lived in the same (Woodinville) house for 54 years. I attended the planning meetings (concerning the Downtown and Little Bear Creek Master Plan) and I can't say I'm happy with what's going on."
A Wellington area couple who retired here 12 years ago said they saw their taxes go from $1,700 to $5,300 a year. They wonder what a "new" downtown would do to their taxes.
The gentleman also said, "I'm concerned about the sewage plant, and I'm frustrated by not being able to get the city to help. I fear people haven't been here long enough to care about what's going on."
A 13-year Woodinville resident felt city staff was helpful but didn't really have a vested interest in the city, since many of them don't live here.
A woman who's been a resident since 1998 moved here because she liked the country, trees, the laid-back feeling the city provided.
"So much has changed in the last three years. I want to keep Woodinville small." She also had concerns for the city's senior citizen population, who she feels "is being taxed and run out of their homes. Woodinville needs to take into account what seniors need," she said. "And about these plans to build high-rises downtown and make Woodinville a 'walking' community, since when did people start walking?"
"I've seen so much change," said a five-year city resident. "I want to do something instead of sitting down on the couch and doing nothing."
Her husband said, "Nothing happens without your letting it happen. We need to keep a loud, constant voice (before the Council)."
And AWR intends to do just that.
Their goal is threefold:
* "Take complex city issues and break them down into non-technical explanations with an assessment of their costs/benefits so that residents can make informed decisions;
* Seek citizen input on these issues; and
* Represent and advocate citizen preferences, views and concerns before the City Council for the purpose of ensuring that policy decisions are made which support and maintain the residents' vision of the community."
Alliance founders have long been "plugged in" to their community. Some "have worked on behalf of the community in organizations such as Boy Scouts, PTA, Little League and soccer. Additionally, members have been involved in City of Woodinville activities including: Woodinville incorporation, community visioning meetings, the King County Northshore Comprehensive Plan, City of Woodinville Planning Commission (three former members) transportation, land use, urban design, Tourist District Master Plan, design review, Sign Code Ordinance sub-committees, and the Leota-Wellington Association," according to the AWR Web site, www.awrweb.org.
"Residents have a right to self-determination," said Maria Morris, former city planning commissioner and 16-year city resident. "I don't feel we still have the input from residents I thought we should have after incorporation."
"I have a firm conviction," said Gina Leonard, former planning commissioner and 17-year Woodinville resident, "that the heart and the soul of the city is the residents. It's not a bunch of documents."
According to the group's Web site, AWR founders feel there is "a void present in the governing/political process. Business and developers have organizations and easy access to advocate their interests. There is not an organization which solely represents and promotes the interests of city residents and their vision for the community."
"The remedy," said President of AWR Len McNally, 13-year resident of the city and also a former planning commissioner, "is that voices can come together. We can figure out what the (regulations) mean. We can stay abreast of what's happening next that may impact residents. We can teach one another. We can bring issues forward, taking the residents' perspective. We can take their agenda and push it forward."
The next monthly meeting of the AWR will be from 7 to 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the new downtown fire station, 17718 Woodinville-Snohomish Rd. NE.