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Bellevue City Council hesitant about property owners' benefit from LID

The Bellevue City Council on Monday displayed a collective reluctance to charge property owners more than $10 million of the $47 million package to improve 120th Avenue Northeast and extend Northeast Fourth Street.

The council considered drafting an ordinance to form a local improvement district (LID) for property owners to chip in some of the cost. But the council wanted more discussion to explore the opposition to the LID from property owners, and the hearing examiner's view that "more work needs to be done."

Much of the discussion focused on the perceived notion of a special benefit, that surrounding businesses would experience a greater gain than others from the widening of 120th Avenue Northeast and the extension of Northeast Fourth Street.

"I don't think this is a good project for an LID," said councilmember Jennifer Robertson. "I think this is really quite flawed. It does not meet the test for me of being a local project; it's a regional project."

The other point of contention came in the total bill for property owners.

The council decided in December to charge 75 percent of the more than $13 million the properties would be benefitted. At Monday's meeting, several council members floated the idea of dropping that ratio to ease some of the property owners' concerns. Councilmember Kevin Wallace talked about potentially lowering the amount charged to 50 percent.

"This thing is really not baked enough for me to support it yet, but I see how we could get there if we address some of the concerns," he said.

The LID process has come down to a battle between the city staff and some of the property owners, who have issues with the project. At public hearings last October, 13 of 49 property owners, as well as 6 of 400 tenants, disputed the notion that they would benefit at all by the projects.

"The collective voice of those who did attend and participate is resoundingly opposed to formation of the LID," hearing examiner Christopher Mathews wrote to the City Council last November.

The council will discuss the LID again on Feb. 28 to clarify some of the issues, with the draft ordinance coming forward March 7. Formation of ordinance does not guarantee that the LID will happen. The money doesn't begin drawing from property owners until 2015 to pay back temporary bond financing. Prior to that, a final assessment and hearing will occur at which time the council could pull the plug. Of course that would require an alternate solution to paying back the money lost in the cancellation of the LID.

Property owners also can exercise some control. A 30-day protest period begins following the passage of the formation of an ordinance. If owners and tenants representing 60 percent of the assessed value file written protests, then the LID is dissolved.

Nat Levy can be reached at 425-453-4290.

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