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House passes bill that could end Houghton Community Council
The Washington state House of Representatives approved a bill late Thursday that could bring an end to the Houghton Community Council (HCC).
State Rep. Larry Springer’s House Bill 2610 to end state authorization for community municipal corporations passed by a vote of 56-40.
There are only two community councils in the state - one in Houghton and the East Bellevue Community Council. Community councils exercise veto power over city government on land-use decisions.
Several members of the HCC spoke against the bill before the Local Government Committee on Jan. 27.
Before Thursday’s House vote, Kirkland Reps. Springer and Deb Eddy spoke in favor of the measure.
Springer said the bill would end a “43-year-old anachronism” and would “lessen the burden” on local government.
Eddy cited the Growth Management Act as her main reason for supporting the bill.
“What happens is that in these two areas that have community councils, those folks are not subject, then, to the same limitations on development that all the other citizens of these areas are,” said Eddy. “So we’ve known since 1990 that we would have to sunset the councils, it is time for this body to do so, I ask for a yes vote.”
But Elsie Weber, who has been an HCC member for nearly 23 years, said the community council has strived over the years to keep the neighborhood livable.
"It's pleasant to drive through our area and we've worked hard for that."
She also said the agreement between the City of Kirkland and Houghton that was made many years ago should be honored.
"I don't care how old the agreement is, it still functions as it's supposed to," said Weber. "If I shake my hand and say, 'okay, I'm going to do this," that's a binding contract."
She said the HCC often compromises with the city so the body doesn't have to exercise it's veto vote. This was the case with the recent Transit Oriented Development at the South Kirkland Park & Ride.
"We worked together, we didn't just say, 'hey, we don't want this,'" said Weber. "We worked with them to come up with zoning guidelines, so it's a real asset to the city and to Houghton."
Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, spoke against the measure.
“I’m concerned about the state interference in saying to a local jurisdiction, you can no longer have the kind of government you want to have … ,” said Angel. “There are agreements that are of record, those agreements have a meaning and for that reason I’m going to ask for a no vote. To me this goes back to property rights, choice of the citizens that live there and that community told us they want this type of government to stay in place and I believe we should honor in this case the wish of the community that it governs.”
The measure now moves before the Senate. HCC members have drafted a new online petition for residents to oppose the measure.