Northwest NEWS

December 16, 2002

Editorial

AWR questions retail-housing mix for city

by Jeanette Knutson
Staff Writer

 

Members of the Alliance of Woodinville Residents (AWR) still have concerns about the City of Woodinville’s Downtown-Little Bear Creek Master Plan. The watchdog group met last Tuesday evening, Dec. 10, at fire department headquarters to discuss how the “downtown vision” was evolving.
One of the things that bothers the Alliance is that since the Oct. 16 public hearing on the plan - a public hearing, that was very well attended - little has been done to the plan to address citizens’ concerns aired at the hearing.
“They took a whole lot of notes,” said Dennis Foster, “pages and pages on those big white easels ... . So far, I see no changes in the plan as a result of the hearing ... no acknowledgment of the public’s concerns.”
Since then, said Len McNally, president of the Alliance, the planning commission has been working on the grid road plan. The grid roads are worrisome to the group since many of the roads slice through existing buildings.
“The plan looks like it will tear up a lot of existing (businesses) if they put in half of these grid roads,” said Foster.
McNally also said that the so-called “central park blocks” have been moved farther south - into Canterbury Square - another troubling aspect of the plan for the group.
“Where will all those people go (when their mobile home park is displaced)?” asked Gina Leonard.
Leonard reported that she has been observing mixed-use housing in Kirkland and Bellevue. Woodinville city planners are working toward a “walkable,” vibrant downtown. They say mixing housing with retail will yield a lively, interactive city center. Leonard wanted to see for herself. She drove to mixed-housing neighborhoods at 5 p.m. and watched the activity.
“I wanted to see how many people got on a bus (from one of the retail businesses) or how many got off a bus and went into a retail business or how many (came) downstairs to shop in one of the businesses. Do you know how many did? Zero,” said Leonard.
One group member said she worked in the Belltown area of Seattle, a mixed-housing neighborhood.
She said, “You don’t see many people out walking around shopping during the day. Even at lunchtime, you don’t see many out. You’ll even see some get in their cars and drive somewhere else for lunch. You can’t change our society. (We rely on our cars.)”
The city’s 20-year vision calls for increased densities downtown. AWR approximates the plan will bring an additional 8,000 residents to Woodinville’s city center. Maria Morris wonders what the extra traffic will do to the city’s air quality. The trapped car fumes due to recent weather inversions caused people’s eyes to burn and itch, she said.
“What’s it going to be like when we bring in another 20,000 to 30,000 cars?” asked Morris.
The group has asked Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to install an air quality monitoring station in downtown Woodinville. Data from such a station will reveal present air quality conditions (particularly on inversion days) and will hopefully help the group extrapolate future air conditions.
The bottom line, say AWR members, is what does the downtown master plan offer city residents.
McNally said, “I don’t hear people saying ‘I look forward to the dramatic change in this 24-hour city. I don’t think anyone expressed an interest in high-rise culture. People moved to Woodinville because they liked the small-town feel.”
The Planning Commission will be discussing the proposed overpass and underpass, amongst other things, at its Wednesday, Dec. 18, 6:30 p.m. meeting at City Hall. Planning Commission meetings are also scheduled for Jan. 8, 15 and 22. The commission will host another public hearing at a date to be announced.