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Kirkland to hold public hearing to consider establishing a Transportation Benefit District

City of Kirkland - Contributed art
City of Kirkland
— image credit: Contributed art

To help preserve the city of Kirkland’s ability to enact future transportation funding through a Transportation Benefit District , the Kirkland City Council is holding a public hearing on Feb. 10. The public hearing will begin at 9 a.m., at Kirkland City Hall, 123 5th Ave.

Following public testimony, the City Council will consider an ordinance establishing the city limits of Kirkland as a Transportation Benefit District.

The City Council will also accept public comment at its regular meeting to be held on Feb. 4 during “Items from the Audience” portion of the meeting.

The public is encouraged to attend and may provide written or verbal testimony. Written comments can be submitted to Pam Bissonnette, Director, Public Works Department, city of Kirkland, 123 5th Avenue, Kirkland, WA 98033, pbissonnette@kirklandwa.gov and must be received by at 9 a.m. on Feb. 10.

Kirkland is considering this action in part to respond to public input from the Kirkland 2035 visioning process. Citizen input to date has called for major transportation investments in keeping Kirkland walkable, accessible, and connected.

A benefit district is primarily a financing tool for cities, towns and counties to pay for transportation improvements including streets, sidewalks, bicycle paths and pedestrian safety improvements. A benefit district provides a variety of funding options; several require voter approval. Kirkland leaders seek to preserve the funding option a benefit district allows, but are not proposing to enact any of the funding options at this time.

Forming a Kirkland benefit district was originally scheduled to be discussed by the Kirkland City Council in March 2014. However, in mid-January King County officials announced a proposal to create a county-wide benefit district to help save Metro transit service reductions and address road and street maintenance backlogs. The County Council will vote on its proposed legislation on Feb. 10. For information on the County Council’s actions, go to www.kingcounty.gov and search “Transportation Benefit District.”

The County’s proposed benefit district includes Kirkland. It is anticipated that a tax measure will be placed before King County voters on the April 2014 ballot. If approved by the voters of King County, the measure would result in revenues for Kirkland. However, it is not clear under state law whether a countywide benefit district would preclude the city of Kirkland from later forming its own benefit district. Because of this uncertainty, City Manager Kurt Triplett recommended that the City Council preserve local benefit district options by acting first.

“For the past year, Kirkland residents have been engaged in defining the future vision of their city and they desire that it be walkable, accessible and sustainable,” said Triplett. “We want to preserve our ability to invest in congestion relief, transit, sidewalks and pedestrian safety to attain this vision the best we can. Creating a TBD helps to ensure Kirkland has this transportation funding option. None of the TBD revenue options are implemented by this action. Local TBD tax or fee proposals would only be considered after extensive public outreach and input.”

Triplett adds, “Kirkland’s action compliments the regional TBD being considered by King County by preserving local options.”

A Transportation Benefit District is a quasi-municipal corporation and independent taxing district created to acquire, construct, improve, provide and fund transportation improvements within the district. Benefit districts are governed by the local legislative authority. For Kirkland, the City Council would be the governing board.

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