Bellevue looking at allowing more car dealerships in areas of city

The Eastgate corrider may add a third site for auto dealerships by amending land use codes. - Courtesy Photo, City of Bellevue
The Eastgate corrider may add a third site for auto dealerships by amending land use codes.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo, City of Bellevue

Bellevue is considering amending land use codes to allow for more auto dealerships in certain pockets of the city. Retail auto sales account for about 14 percent of the city’s sales tax, says Senior Planner, Mike Bergstrom.

“Because of the significant dollar amount and the difficulty we have had in finding relocation opportunities for some of our dealerships that are in distress, and others being relocated or impacted by Sound Transit, we thought we should bring it to your attention” said director of planning and community development, Chris Salomone to the City Council in January.

The area under consideration lies within the Office/Limited Business (OLB) district, in a quadrant near Bellevue College. Though the neighborhood already has several dealerships, including the Honda of Bellevue, south of I-90 and another in Wilburton, the amendment would allow for a third area.

Bergstrom explained that the need to expand the space permitted had been a mutual realization: both local dealerships expressing interest and the city’s acknowledgement that spaces were scarce. City zoning does allow for other locations, but OLB districts are particularly desirable because of their proximity to major highways and freeways.

“In the staff report I see in my mind a lot of rationalization,” said Councilmember John Chelminiak at the same Council meeting in January. “I think it really comes down to the money—the fact that this is a high sales  proposition...The possibility that this property would be redeveloped into high-end businesses probably isn’t real…but I’m bothered by this.”

Councilmember Don Davidson said he saw dealerships as both revenue and a regional service: “I think it’s a great idea. We’re talking about economic development, and the first thing we want to do is go the opposite direction? My goodness, I don’t think so.”

In a planning study conducted between 2011 and 2012, the Eastgate Corridor was identified as a viable location for future redevelopment. Formal land use regulations won’t take place until later this year, and 2014. But Bergstrom said he didn’t expect an added dealership would interrupt the city’s vision for the Eastgate corridor, particularly because of its location at the far east end of an area identified for transit-oriented developed.

When asked for comment, many of the dealerships in the city weren’t familiar with the proposed amendment, and so said they had no opinion either way.

Though the Council expressed some concerns about the proposal, in January they initiated the code amendment. That decision does not guarantee adoption but will at least expedite the process, with final decision made on April 1.


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