City Council held a special neighborhood council meeting Sept. 25 in the Juanita neighborhood, offering residents updates on several important local issues.
Neighborhood hearings, during which no official action is adopted, are usually held four times a year. The meeting is one of several ways the city tries to bring city government to its citizens, said Mayor Jim Lauinger.
“They’re able to see us and city staff up-close and focus on their issues,” he said. “Every neighborhood’s issues are a little different.”
The issues covered at the meeting were a snapshot of city hot-button issues that have kept the civic leadership pre-occupied for most of the year: the city budget; transportation; public safety; annexation; public transit; parks and planning issues, particularly downtown development.
Condensing countless hours of budget negotiations, contract talks and economic forecasts, Mayor Lauinger delivered a warning he is now well accustomed to giving the various city neighborhoods — that city services will be cut and taxes will be raised. While he declined to announce the projected shortfall for the 2009/2010 biennial budget, the figure is widely believed to be between $13 to $17 million. A city “Open House” on Sept. 17 on the budget crisis but attracted only three people. City Manager David Ramsay said he plans to announce proposed service cuts in city services — up to 8 percent — soon.
“I urge you, come to the meetings,” he said.
Another presentation on budget plans was held Sept. 29 at City Hall but occurred after the Reporter’s deadline.
No grocery store
Few if any in the audience were surprised but groans were still audible when Deputy Mayor Joan McBride said Juanita Village developers Seco Development would not attract a supermarket for the third and final phase of development there. Building permits have been issued but no further action has taken place on plans for the mixed-use project at the intersection of 97th Ave. N.E. and N.E. 119th Way.
“The space just isn’t big enough to support (a supermarket),” McBride said.
Also on hold is the redevelopment of Totem Lake Mall, where approvals were given in Jan. 2007 but developers DDR/Coventry are still trying to attract “anchor tenants” for a new shopping mall.
Better news for Juanita residents came from Councilwoman Jessica Greenway, who said master plans to improve and restore McAuliffe and Juanita Beach Park were still on track, depending on city funding from the next budget.
City lawsuit on hold
Councilman Tom Hodgson announced developer SRM and the City of Kirkland entered into an agreement Sept. 19 to delay a lawsuit against the city. He said Bank of America/Merrill Gardens (BofA) developers SRM was requesting a settlement in 60-day stay and the City was “aggressively pursuing” that. SRM’s plans to develop the downtown BofA project on Lake Street was overturned on appeal to City Council in August. The city has several lawyers on retainer and has set aside $50,000 for potential litigation cost not covered by a municipal insurance pool.
Kirkland Citizens for Responsible Development prepare for another round
During the hearing, a number of questions and comments began to focus on the council’s actions in handling the downtown development appeals. Mayor Lauinger, in acknowledging comments from former Councilwoman Nona Ganz, said the entire Council would like to avoid further appeals.
“It was a terrible waste on our time,” he said. “It affected our relationships with each other.” Councilman Bob Sternoff agreed. “I don’t like this atmosphere,” he said. “It makes me uncomfortable.”
Meanwhile, a petition by a citizen’s group oppose a proposed re-development of the Parkplace Shopping Center circled the room. Organized by local attorney and Emerald Building property-owner Ken Davidson, Kirkland Citizens for Responsible Development (CRD) sent thousands of mailings out to residents in and around the downtown area. The postcard announces a “Citizen’s Open House” to discuss plans to oppose a proposed re-development of the Parkplace Shopping Center.
“’Parkplace will be 20 percent larger than the Columbia Tower!’,” the flyer exclaims.
Parkplace owners Touchstone Corporation are seeking both an additional height allowance of up to eight stories and reduced setbacks as part of a “preferred” 1.8 million square-foot mixed use proposal. An alternative “office park” plan for the site, which meets present zoning requirements, currently awaits approval from the Design Review Board. Both plans are exempted from the downtown building moratorium.
The group is set to meet Saturday, Oct. 4 at 365 Kirkland Way near the St. James Espresso Cafe.