Kirkland City Hall. Reporter file photo

Kirkland City Hall. Reporter file photo

Kirkland to create citywide transportation connections map

The city decided it would be more efficient to develop a single document with all of the city’s connections.

The Kirkland City Council voted unanimously at its Jan. 2 meeting to create a citywide transportation connections map.

According to the council agenda bill, city staff will conduct a public process and draft a map that identifies the type of and rationale for each connection. The map will be included in the late-2019 annual update of the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

Kirkland currently has “Street Connections” maps in its adopted North Rose Hill Neighborhood Plan and its Highlands Neighborhood Plan, as well as its Totem Lake Business District Plan.

Members of council thought it would be more efficient to develop a single document, rather than creating more maps on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis. The multi-year neighborhood plan update cycle takes about eight years.

“A concerted effort to create a citywide map could be done perhaps in a matter of months,” said deputy public works director John Starbard.

The agenda also noted that Kirkland’s transportation network is an integrated system that provides service to the entire city and the region and evaluating connections on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis diminishes that perspective.

The draft map would also identify both motorized (“street”) and non-motorized connections.

Councilmember Toby Nixon said he agrees with the city’s proactive approach — as “part of the planning process and not the permitting process of an individual project.”

Most of the time, connections are proposed and required in conjunction with new plats.

“When it’s part of a permit application that a connection gets discussed, then it’s quasi-judicial and we can’t participate in the discussion until the record is developed,” Nixon said.

In July, the council discussed amending the Kirkland Municipal Code so that all land use appeals, including those projects that recommend connections, be directed to the hearing examiner. The council wanted to remain part of the community discussion when connections are proposed, but did not want to hear appeals.

“From the public process perspective, connections can be quite controversial,” said councilmember Jon Pascal. “I would want to make sure that there’s public notification for those property owners that adjoin those connections, direct mail or some sort.”

Councilmember Amy Walen added that in regard to new connections, “predictability for neighbors and developers is very important.”

The agenda bill notes a potential challenge of doing a citywide map: that discussions about proposed connections benefit from the local knowledge of the people who live or who have businesses closest to them.

The idea for a citywide map was formed during the Finn Hill neighborhood planning process. According to the city, the transportation system is underdeveloped in some areas of Finn Hill; there are several dead ends that preclude neighborhood connections, public street segments that lack sidewalks or even sufficient pavement and areas that are inconsistent with the street standards found elsewhere in the city.

The Finn Hill map was postponed until a public outreach process could be conducted about connectivity issues, including developing priorities and objective criteria regarding transportation connections for vehicles, pedestrians and/or bicycles, evaluating emergency response times and how best to address bollards and barriers in the area.

The transportation element of the Kirkland Comprehensive Plan seeks to create a system of streets and trails that form an interconnected transportation network, noting that new connections often are required as part of land development, that traffic spread over a grid of streets helps balance and minimize impacts across the network, and that emergency response times are shorter and more reliable when responders have routing options.

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