Letters to the Editor

Stay vigilant on Potala Village saga | Letter

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And so the saga of Potala Village continues.

The developer filed a new claim on Jan. 10 in King County Superior Court. The pleading asks for the recent city council decisions to be declared invalid or void. I guess the farther claim by the plaintiff is likely to be that the project is allowed 143 units.

And so, there is no time yet for citizens to rest or be less vigilant. No less need for neighbors and their attorneys.

The City of Kirkland also recently issued a statement that it was processing the shoreline development permit (SDP). When the citizens asked for details, we were told that the decision date was uncertain. The developer’s legal papers indicate that they have been given a more complete answer and decision on the permit will be made this month. It is believed that the city confirmed that the SDP being processed is for the 143 units. What continues to be curious is why the citizens who pay the bills get less complete and totally useless answers.

So what would be appropriate review of the shorelines substantial development permit?

A. City records show processing of similar SDPs. There is a public hearing once all known environmental (and other) issues have been documented. We have just received the final EIS for Potala, but there has been no public comment period following the release of the all known environmental information via the FEIS.

B. City records show elected officials or the team of appointed Planning Commissioners make decisions on past SDPs. This includes SDP decisions in the same block as Potala Village. Is it correct that a single individual (planning director) now makes the decision solo? He is not elected. He could be great at his job, or not so. The citizens don’t have the opportunity to un-elect, or recall him if they believe that his decisions are erroneous.

C. SDP requires the decision to be made on the basis of several things. Let’s review.

1. On the basis of information supplied by the developer and the developer is cautioned to make sure and provide accurate and complete information on the SDP application and the environmental checklist. To this point, neither the SDP or the environmental checklist were complete.

There were items required by the state “to be provided at a MINIMUM” that were missing. Why would the developer not include the name, address and phone number of the property owner, Luella O’Connor or her signature on the hold harmless agreement and others? Why would he not answer the question about the intensity and uses of the “adjacent properties” on the checklist that gets sent to “interested parties” and “agencies for their consideration?”

Why would he not put the information about the contaminated soils on the document that also gets circulated amongst folks like the Muckleshoot Indian Tribes, Department of Ecology and others who may be concerned about potential impact in areas classified as shorelines of statewide significance? Incomplete applications are not appropriate for approval, period.

City officials cannot excuse lack of information that is required “at a minimum” by the state. Mistaken or intentional omissions on critical questions create the inability for thoughtful consideration by those within Kirkland and those at the state level who would not be privy to knowledge about contamination and adjacent properties unless it is properly documented.

2. The permit is to be considered in light of Comprehensive Plan and other city ordinances and policies.

During the last two years there has been extensive discussion of how the Potala proposal conflicts with ordinances that restricted development on the site to 12 per acre and only limited commercial that would not cause substantial vehicular ingress and egress at the site.

One specific policy, R-4 (that of driveway offset with the driveways across the street, spacing between driveways on the same side of the street and driveway distance from the corner) in itself does not allow for the Potala proposal. The proposal ignores the fact that the developer was originally told that driveway should not be onto Lake Street/Lake Washington Boulevard and that all Public Works policies (including R-4, driveways) would apply.

According to the R-4, driveway policies are not optional, but MANDATORY for all commercial and/or residential development.

The information also provides the setback, offset and other requirements all ignored by Potala SDP (driveway is within the shorelines jurisdiction).

3. SDP is to be decided following (and presumably considering) public testimony. By now, it is no secret that the public has presented substantial evidence of areas where Potala is considered incompatible, the project ignores numerous Comprehensive Plan chapters and particularly the Comprehensive Plan comments specific to subject parcel. Citizens, the Planning Commission and council have all expressed the opinion that no more than 12 to 48 units per acre is appropriate. This should be heavily considered in the SDP.

Stay tuned, stay vigilant.

Karen Levenson, Kirkland


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