Kirkland City Council discussed amendments to the Houghton/Everest Neighborhood Center ordinances during the Nov. 21 meeting for what could be the final time if they pass at the next meeting on Dec. 12.
Council provided direction for city staff to include a new amendment to the HENC ordinances. This amendment was introduced by Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold in an attempt to find a compromise after a tie vote regarding five story development incentives during the Nov. 8 meeting.
The original ordinance, as recommended by the Planning Commission, only allowed developers in the neighborhood center to build up to three stories and 35 feet.
Council members Penny Sweet, Doreen Marchione and Mayor Amy Walen voted to extend the height limit to five stories for a potential developer who also helps pay for a southbound right-turn lane for 6th Street South at the Northeast 68th Street intersection.
Arnold and fellow council members Jon Pascal and Dave Asher voted against the incentives. Council member Toby Nixon was absent from the Nov. 8 meeting but said he also would’ve voted against the incentives.
The new language — nicknamed the Arnold Amendment by Walen — allows up to two additional stories only if developers introduce a legislative council-approved master plan, which council may approve or deny, that meets the following requirements.
The master plan must include the right-turn lane, which must be built per the public works department’s approved plans; it must consolidate the property on the northwest corner of the intersection and the properties to the west; it must comply with all the proposed three-story, 35-foot regulations; and it must include a circulation plan and a driveway consolidation plan for the Everest portion of the Houghton Everest Business District north of Northeast 68th Street.
Pascal and Asher voted against the amendment, while the four other members voted to include it. City staff will now rewrite the ordinance to include this amendment and present it to council for a vote at its Dec. 12 meeting.
Pascal said he voted against the new language because he won’t be able to vote on the final ordinances.
Tom Neir, who ran unopposed for council seat Pos. 2, will replace Pascal before the next meeting. Pascal, who was elected to council Pos. 7, will return to the council in January after Marchione retires from the position.
Many Houghton community members have been outspoken against these five-story incentives because it will potentially introduce more residents who will add traffic to the already overburdened intersection.
Steve Cox, an Everest resident, spoke against the incentives at the Nov. 21 meeting along with five other community members who all said either the five stories shouldn’t be included or that the right-turn lane would not adequately alleviate traffic.
“We elect the council to be smart, prudent and responsible,” Cox said. “To protect the value of the community, not add value to one guy’s piece of property. Who in your group wants a five-story something so badly that you’re willing to trade the stewardship, the confidence and trust of our community for it? I think this thing can wait.”
Two community members spoke out in support of the five story incentives, saying they aren’t afraid of a potential traffic increase and most of the potential new residents brought in by a five-story building will have the opportunity to walk and bike wherever they need to go.
“Kirkland has a huge housing shortage, the shortage is particularly acute in our walkable close-in neighborhoods. There’s an entire generation of people who would like to live in Kirkland but can’t afford it” said Michelle Plesko, who is involved with Kirkland Greenways, a safe street advocacy organization.
Plesko lives in Bridle Trails and said she can bike nearly everywhere she needs to go, but only because nothing she needs is more four miles away.
“Millennials don’t want to drive, but we insist on building places where they have to drive,” she said. “We’re hoarding the walkable, bikeable places … where people young and old don’t need to drive, or not as much.”
Council had not received community feedback on the new amendment as of the Reporter’s Tuesday deadline but Arnold said he thinks it will work as a compromise.
According to Arnold, the ordinance, as amended, will maintain the base zoning of three stories and provide a framework for future discussion, if a developer comes forward with a tangible plan.
“Instead of how we zone in general for any development, we can talk about a specific proposal,” Arnold said. “If someone came to us with a master plan that provided a transportation circulation plan, property consolidation, driveway consolidation and transportation improvement, we’d be open to that discussion within the community.”