Letter writer made erroneous conclusions about Potala Village | Letter
January 23, 2013 · 3:25 PM
Roger Lowe made several points accompanied by erroneous conclusions in a recent letter about the Potala Village project. His points, and the facts, are these:
“My understanding of zoning law is that it provides rights and obligations and that they vest at the time a building permit is requested.” The developer of Potala Village has not filed an application for a building permit. City permit records indicate only that he and the city held two “pre-submittal meetings” in 2010 at which time he was given the conditions he would need to meet if he wanted to file an application for a building permit.
“Fairness and justice demand this. You cannot change the zoning after an owner has made a proper effort to get a permit under the zoning and terms in effect at the time the permit was filed. Check with your lawyers.” As noted, he has not “made a proper effort to get a permit.” With regard to “fairness and justice,” that cuts both ways. The citizens have an equal right in that regard.
The problem is that the city passed an ordinance adopting our Comprehensive Plan, then the Planning Department failed to update the applicable section of the zoning code to be in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan. Citizens spent a huge amount of time helping produce that Comprehensive Plan, and expected the plan to be codified in zoning.
“The neighbors objecting to the project had the opportunity to be heard at the time the zoning was being considered. They are wrong to object now.” The only notice about the project that was ever publicized announced a shorelines meeting about parks, fish, docks, etc. In fact, the citizens discovered the issue of zoning a few months later.
Until then, the city and the neighbors both believed that the zoning code and the Comprehensive Plan were concordant, and that residential density for the project was limited to 12 units per acre. Planner Desiree Goble informed the developer of the that residential density limit in a December, 2009, letter.
“It appears that the owners of the Potala Village project have made a very sincere and generous effort to deal with the demands the city has made …” No demands were made. The developer received two different opinions from the Planning Department between December, 2009, and February, 2010.
He purchased property based only on the favorable opinion, and made no effort to resolve the two. He then proceeded to deal with the preliminary shorelines issue only and did not pursue a building permit. His poor business judgment is not the responsibility of the citizens of Kirkland.
“(The mayor and council’s) duty is to represent all of the residents of Kirkland, not just a segment objecting to Potala Village.” And that “(they are acting) on behalf of the neighbors to the project, who are just a small segment of our city.” And, “stop fighting the developer and stop spending taxpayer money and city resources that should be used for the good of the whole city.”
The opposition to this project comes from all over our city. It is not just neighbors. More than 800 citizens are aware that what could happen to Kirkland’s signature waterfront boulevard, due to a mistake/loophole/oversight in the zoning code, could happen in their neighborhood as well. Citizens throughout Kirkland consider Lake Washington Boulevard, its vistas and parks, to be one of the amenities of Kirkland that belong to us all.
“I want the council to resolve this … without the expense of a trial that has not the faintest glimmer of success …” Government entities can downzone any property at any time. The city has been through an exceptionally well-thought, well-documented process to resolve this matter. Government entities prevail in the vast majority of land use cases in the state of Washington. The surprise here is that the developer thinks he can beat those odds.
When Mr. Lowe says, “I have followed the Potala Village story in the Kirkland Reporter and now the Seattle Times,” I believe he would have a completely different perspective if he were a more active participant, like the dozen or so leaders who represent the 800-plus involved citizens.
This team has spent thousands of hours understanding the history of zoning and planning related to this issue and appreciate immensely that our city leaders have finally faced the music, done the right thing, and are willing to defend this matter in court, rather than be walked over by a clever developer.
Finally, to the likely surprise of most readers, nearly everyone opposed to the Potala development, including several developers, are pro-development. We look forward to this property being developed responsibly and will support anyone with plans to do so.
Chuck Pilcher, Kirkland