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Controversy continues over proposed Potala Village as developer files second lawsuit
After several Kirkland Council-imposed building moratoriums, zoning changes, public backlash and months of mediation, the proposed Potala Village controversy is still not over.
The project developer has filed a second lawsuit against the City of Kirkland, this time asserting the city used the “ongoing moratorium as cover” and “abruptly adopted” drastic zoning changes that forced major amendments to the Potala Village project, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday in King County Superior Court.
Developer Lobsang Dargey and wife Tamara Agassi Dargey, who are seeking unspecified damages, claim the city misused its power when the council voted in December to amend the Neighborhood Business (BN) zoning code to cap density at 48 units per acre. The code adoption also “constituted unlawful spot zoning,” said the plaintiffs in court documents.
When the developer initially proposed the four-story development in 2009, plans called for 181 apartment units, 6,000 square feet of retail space and retail parking on a 1.2 acre lot south of downtown Kirkland. Since then, the plaintiffs reduced the density to 143 units.
Zoning in the area at that time allowed for unlimited density.
However, more than 1,000 opponents said the project was out of scale with the 12-units-per-acre density on several nearby properties. Neighbors also argued that the zoning conflicted with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
As a result, the city issued four moratoria on new building permits for the area. The freezes led Dargey to file a lawsuit against the city in May, seeking an injunction against the moratorium and arguing that the city did not have the authority to react that way based on one project.
“The moratorium was clearly intended to respond to public comment regarding (the) plaintiffs’ proposed development of the property: the shoreline development application was the only development application pending among properties subject to the moratorium,” the suit continued in the most recent filing.
The developer also claims that the city misused its moratorium powers by extending the moratorium for more than a year “for the sole purpose of adopting significant changes to the BN zone governing (the) plaintiffs’ property.”
She added the council-approved amendments to the zoning code in December were not made “abruptly.”
“Rather, these amendments were the culmination of careful consideration by the Planning Commission and city council over a year … to clarify and improve commercial regulations throughout the city,” said Jenkinson in an email.
She said the extent of changes to the Potala Village project as a result of the zoning changes is unknown, “but we do know that this was not the only area affected by the zoning amendments; there were also amendments to other commercial zoning districts within the city.”
The council dismissed the developer’s settlement agreement regarding the first lawsuit in November.