Property owners bristle at Wilburton LID to pay for road projects
By NAT LEVY
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
October 22, 2010 · Updated 12:33 AM
A deluge of representatives of the Wilburton business community protested the city’s attempt to charge them more than $10 million for road improvements they claim will harm them, and help everybody else.
In a public hearing before Bellevue Hearing Examiner Chris Mathews Thursday, attorneys and representatives from businesses such as Best Buy, Bartell’s, Home Depot and Whole Foods, stated opposition to the potential formation of a Local Improvement District. The LID would constitute $10 million of approximately $47 million cost to extend Northeast 4th Street from 116th to 120th Avenue Northeast and improve 120th Avenue Northeast between Northeast Fourth and Eighth streets.
Representatives of the businesses argued that the road projects would primarily benefit further development of the downtown and Bel-Red areas, while congestion and access to the businesses nearby would rise significantly.
"I'm here tonight to protest the formation of the LID based on the very simple reason that property owners that will be benefitted by this LID are all located outside the LID boundary," said Doug Exworthy, the owner of a shopping center on 120th Avenue Northeast. "The properties inside this boundary will be hurt and not benefitted."
The two projects are part of the larger Mobility and Infrastructure Initiative that works toward extending streets and opening up more options for travel to the east of downtown.
Thirteen individuals spoke over the three-hour meeting, and all of them were in opposition to the LID. City staff asked for time with the hearing examiner Thursday at 7 p.m. to attempt to rebut claims of the property owners that the LID will cost them money both in paying for the project and the resulting business impact caused by more congestion.
An LID is relatively commonly used means to pay for projects, where there will be an increase in value to nearby property owners. But Bellevue hasn't formed one since the early 1990s. In this case, the city concluded that surrounding property owners will gain a total of more than $13 million in value, and the LID cost is formulated as 75 percent of that added benefit. If adopted, the city issues bonds that are repaid through an increase in property tax for the surrounding property owners.
But the property owners argued that these projects would be of no added value to them. Best Buy representatives said business would be hurt by the fact that the new road would cut through the property and the parking lot would be tougher to access, a complaint shared by many other businesses.
"For a variety of reasons there's no ability to find any special benefit for the Best Buy owner," said Jerry Lutz, attorney for Best Buy.
Following the second meeting with the hearing examiner, the City Council will be briefed on the testimony. Staff presented a possible timeline where the council would discuss the LID formation on Nov. 15, with the possibility of making a decision in early December. The ordinance would then be published with a 30-day protest period. This could allow the city to form the LID and begin drawing money early in 2011.
As the LID process continues, the city is pushing forward on design for the two projects. The widening of 120th Avenue Northeast is near 90 percent design and could be ready for construction bids in the first quarter of next year. The Northeast 4th Street extension is near 60 percent and could be ready for bid next spring.Contact Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer Nat Levy at email@example.com or 425-453-4290.