While many Bellevue residents were enjoying spring break, the Bellevue City Council began considering a change to the city’s Land Use Code that would remove a critical step in the review of controversial projects like the Eastgate men’s shelter, the Northtowne fire station, Sound Transit 3, and PSE’s big transmission line named “Energize Eastside.”
If adopted, the change would make a city-appointed judge the final decider on the merits of these projects. If residents or small businesses disagree with a decision, they could no longer appeal to their elected representatives on the city council. Instead, they would have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to take the issue to court, where they would face a formidable array of high-priced lawyers representing the interests of developers or multi-billion dollar corporations like PSE.
Why is this change being contemplated? Some say that these issues have become too complex for part-time council members to understand. That is ridiculous. Several of our current council members are attorneys. One is actually a land use attorney. Another holds a Ph.D. Two have served as mayor of Bellevue. Is a state or county judge more qualified to determine what’s best for Bellevue than people who live here and are elected to represent us?
By removing an important safeguard in the development process, this proposal degrades democracy and further jeopardizes our “City in a Park.” Council members may like the idea of removing themselves from controversial and politically risky votes, but is this good governance?
In council elections this fall, citizens should consider whether to support a council member who votes to give powerful developers a further advantage over people who love Bellevue and call it home.