City council passed Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan

The Kirkland City Council held a busy meeting on Jan. 16 as they touched on tolls, the 2018 legislative session and passed the Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan.

The council chambers were initially filled with people who mostly stayed for the items from the audience portion of the meeting. The council heard concerns and comments from 18 people regarding various issues but the big issue was the Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan, which had three proponents and three opponents speak on the topic.

Several low-density residential zones were amended as council unanimously passed ordinance O-4636 and established the Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan during the meeting.

City staff worked closely and extensively with Finn Hill residents in 2016 to create the plan. Several residents pointed this out and thanked staff for their service.

“I wanted to let you know the good job the staff and Planning Commission did listening to the neighbors’ needs and visions as this plan was being created,” said Ken Goodwin, a Finn Hill resident. “The process was very organized, open and professional.”

Graham Black, another resident, added, “On behalf of my family, we fully support the work of the Planning Commission and the staff and we thank you for that hard work in the Finn Hill rezone.”

One of the plan’s five values is to maintain a more consistent land-use pattern by unifying the Low-Density Residential RSA zones.

Previously, there were several pockets of RSA 6 and 8 zones surrounded by RSA 4 zones, which allow six, eight and four units per acre, respectively. The new plan rezones all of these pockets to RSA 4, which will only affect future development.

While the new plan saw vocal support, several community members also spoke out against the plan, saying the change to RSA 4 is too drastic and homeowners needed time to adjust to the changes in property value.

“This project made a huge change from RSA 8 to RSA 4,” said Lin Li. “I’m not here to say it’s good or bad…I’m just here to (say), because there’s change, people need (time to) adapt…I would like the community to think about, when you adopt this change, giving a few months’ time for us to adjust.”

TOLLS

The council also received an update on the two-year I-405 express toll lane performance from Lisa Hodgson, the I-405/SR 167 program design engineering manager for WSDOT. She outlined the next steps to increase capacity and throughput, which included projects to widen the express toll lanes and add a new interchange at Northeast 132nd Street.

According to Hodgson’s presentation, I-405 is one of the most congested corridors in the state as new residents continue to flood the region. Between Oct. 1, 2015 and June 30, 2017, King and Snohomish counties issued 148,000 new licenses. This has increased traffic volumes at nearly every point along the corridor by up to 20 percent during peak hours.

Hodgson outlined how toll lanes have improved on the pre-tolling HOV lanes. WSDOT measures performance by the amount of time traffic travels above 45 mph within the toll lanes during peak hours.

The pre-tolling lanes kept traffic above 45 mph 56 percent of the time on average, while the toll lanes kept traffic above 45 mph 85 percent of the time between April and September 2017.

The toll lanes are broken into four quadrants, the northbound single and dual lanes and the southbound single and dual lanes. While the lanes overall don’t meet the 90 percent standard WSDOT is aiming for, only the southbound single lane quadrant falls below the target at 63 percent.

The new I-405 interchange at Northeast 132nd Street is expected to begin construction in spring 2021 and open to traffic in 2023.

THE 2018 SESSION

Council also received an update on the 2018 legislative session from its legislative liaison, Lorrie McKay. The update included the session cutoff calender and the legislative priorities for the city, which include combating homelessness, increasing affordable housing, maintaining flexibility and cost control over telecommunication deployment, maintaining I-405 express toll lanes north of Bellevue and expanding them south of Bellevue.

The Legislature is in a short 60-day session, so numerous bills are already scheduled for hearings and in motion to be passed.

The city’s priorities also included passing the state capital construction budget to fund city projects, which the Legislature passed on Jan. 18.

City council will receive its second legislative update at the meeting on Feb. 6.

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