Northwest NEWS

September 23, 2002

Local News

AWR hopes city will proceed slowly with Downtown Plan

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   The newly formed Alliance of Woodinville Residents (AWR) is making its presence known.
   Five AWR members addressed the City Council during the public comment portion of last Monday's (Sept. 16) City Council meeting.
   The thread that ran through each member's commentary was the integrated Downtown Master Plan/Little Bear Creek Master Plan. The speakers' stance on the topic was "whoa ... slow down ... let's take our time with this Master Plan."
   Said Len McNally, president of the Alliance, "... We determined to ask that the Council move slowly and deliberately with this plan, with ears and eyes open. We ask this for the following reason: Despite appearances to the contrary, Woodinville resident input to the draft plan has been very limited, leading to a feeling among residents that this plan is being rushed past the residents in order to serve interests other than those of Woodinville residents.
   "... What's the hurry? As our City Manager (Pete Rose) has sad, 'We simply have to get it right.'
   "The Alliance of Woodinville Residents believes that 'getting it right' means taking the time for proper deliberation, not rushing the Master Plan through the public process before the residents have a chance to take a breath and provide input at the appropriate places in the review cycle. That would be early and often.
   "'Getting it right' means crafting a plan that reflects the uniqueness of Woodinville and the vision of the people who live here, not presenting a plan that reflects the tastes of professional planners from Oregon.
   ... 'Getting it right' means providing residents complete information about the Plan through public dialog so that residents can make informed decisions about the Plan's benefits and costs that they will have to live with every single day for many years to come," said McNally.
   AWR member Maria Morris requested that the Council postpone approval of the Plan until the following items are considered:
   "1. Policies which require low impact buffer areas adjacent to rural land. The high density and height proposed for the area adjacent to the south by-pass would surely impact the rural land directly across the street.
   "2. Policies relating to fish and wildlife habitat which require that low impact development be planned for areas adjacent to them. The Little Bear Creek Corridor is an environmentally sensitive area. In addition to salmon and wildlife, city staff announced ... two healthy, rare, slow growing native Pacific yew trees had been found in the Little Bear Creek Corridor. Sixty-seven-foot buildings and the increased density along with increased traffic will definitely impact the habitat.
   "3. Policies relating to geologically critical areas. The City of Woodinville's own map designates the area of Little Bear Creek as a Geologic Hazard area. Allowing high density in such an area before changing building regulations to address construction requirements ... seems risky at best, considering the potential liability to the city.
   "4. Policies regarding open space and view corridors, which require retention of public views to desirable natural elements such as Little Bear Creek and Mount Rainier.
   "5. Policies relating to air quality. This area is in a valley, so it is subject to air inversions - that's why the smell from the soup plant up Highway 9 often lingers in downtown Woodinville in the night and early morning air. With this evidence of potential air inversions, it seems that the impact on air quality from additional auto exhaust due to the new density proposed for downtown should be studied.
   "6. Policies requiring existing infrastructure. The city already has severe traffic jams due to cars trying to get in or out of town. This plan includes no proposal to improve the existing traffic bottlenecks at the exits and entrances to downtown which are the main causes of our current traffic jams. That means that increased traffic from the new plan will only make matters worse," said Morris.
   Alliance member Gina Leonard figures only 1 percent of the city's resident population participated in the pre-Draft Plan workshops. Statistically, she said, that number of responses would be considered insignificant.
   "I am asking the Council to consider setting aside the current Draft Downtown Master Plan and any self-imposed deadlines for now and to make possible a public outreach program ... so that the community can once again respond with enthusiasm, interest and pride," said Leonard.
   Karen Hergert, also an AWR member, had several concerns. She felt the city's small business turnover was high, that the city was geared more to large businesses.
   "There is no tiering to allow for small businesses," said Hergert.
   She also feared the city was creating density in 5 to 10 years whilst tackling traffic solutions in 15 to 20 years.
   Hergert noted the Plan indicated a major shift in the city's identity from that of a light industrial/light retail area to one with an "office emphasis." She wondered if the city really wanted to make that change.
   Member Peter Tountas said, "The thought struck me that tall buildings (the Plan proposes a six-story maximum) cast very long shadows and if we are not careful, that will be our legacy. ... I think that you will agree ... we all want to leave the right legacy."
   Council member Don Brocha responded to the speakers by saying the city hired a consultant to demonstrate the possibilities of what Woodinville can become.
   "Most of us have seen the Plan, but the process has just begun. Council hasn't even discussed (it)," said Brocha.
   He said people have made comments such as "Make (Woodinville) look like Sausalito, or Carmel or one big Gilman Village."
   "We can let it develop as it has or be more proactive," said Brocha. "... We encourage others to come on down and let us know what they think."