Light-rail winners | Council, Sound Transit, neighbors all happy with city’s new land use code

Ending what the Bellevue City Council called a months-long saga, Bellevue unanimously approved changes to the city’s land use code Monday night. Dozens of residents showed up for the discussion and vote, which will determine setbacks, the permitting process and design guidelines for the future East Link light rail project.

An agreement between Bellevue and Sound Transit is seen as a benefit to both sides as well as residents.

Ending what the City Council called a months-long saga, Bellevue unanimously approved changes to the city’s land use code Monday night. Dozens of residents showed up for the discussion and vote, which will determine setbacks, the permitting process and design guidelines for the future East Link light rail project.

“I think that this is a great outcome,” said Councilmember John Chelminiak, echoing colleague sentiment. “A week ago…we were looking at potential for very significant delays in the project…As of tonight we got to a place where the project is back on schedule and back working right, and that’s a great outcome.”

Meetings regarding the overlay began in October, but the council closed the vote Monday night feeling confidently on track after significant project delays were predicted even just a week ago. In tandem with that goal, Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl presented a letter to the council, vowing to request early acquisition of properties along the alignment, within 60 days of the City Council and Sound Transit’s approval of the final alignment.

“I certainly understand property owners’ trepidations about going through such a process, and I commit that Sound Transit staff and consultants will work in earnest, fairly and expeditiously, with all property owners throughout the acquisition process,” reads the letter.

That was a particularly important victory for residential neighborhoods, said Joe Rossman of Building a Better Bellevue, in part because it will maintain property values.

“[Sound Transit] has never done this before and it runs counter to what had been their plan,” said Rossman. “I know from discussion…there was no intention of beginning the residential property purchases until well into 2015. Now they have to start the process by middle of next year, and to have it well underway, immediately for everyone.”

Revisions to the overlay were made right up until Sunday night and because of the exhaustive back-and-forth, city staff had to color-code packets of the amendment alternatives for Monday’s vote.

The permitting process, one of the more contentious topics throughout overlay discussions, was settled with the council agreeing to allow ST to apply for permits after beginning the appraisal process. That would allow for a more immediate outcome than had been discussed in a draft last week, where permits couldn’t be applied for until condemnation had been initiated. ST said it expects to apply for its first permit in summer or early fall of this year.

Other concerns, like the maintenance of buffers, were clarified and built upon. Under the amendment changes, ST would be responsible for upkeep unless property owners showed interest themselves. The citizens’ advisory committee (CAC) was also defined with a wide scope of authority. And Councilmember Kevin Wallace shared a short presentation analyzing setbacks and buffer depths. After looking at arterials and neighborhoods throughout Bellevue, he said that 30-foot buffers and 60-foot setbacks weren’t a new concept for the city, cementing the importance of such standards for property owners affected by East Link.

“What we’ve done tonight is accelerated the acquisition of residential properties for people who say they’re stuck – and they are stuck – and they want to be able to move on as quickly as possible,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci. “We’ve made some good edits here tonight that will actually meet our goal of what council is trying to do, better than what we had before…It provides better separation and certainty for homeowners.”

If the project advances as expected, the council’s next hurdle – approving the alignment – should take place in April.

“We were able to tackle some challenging issues,” said Mayor Conrad Lee as the meeting drew to a close, “while balancing protection of our neighborhoods with the implementation of this regional project.”

The final overlay and presentations from Monday night are available here and here.

 

More in News

Law would prohibit eye tattoos in Washington state

Canada has already banned this procedure

Split Washington in two? 51st state movement highlights cultural divide

Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane introduces bill to establish state in Eastern Washington called Liberty

Despite Supreme Court Ruling, activists fight youth incarceration in King County

No New Youth Jail Coalition members send Valentines to King County officials asking them to reconsider funding priorities

Former two-term state Senator Joe Fain has a new job – president and CEO of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
Bellevue Chamber of Commerce selects Joe Fain as new president and CEO

The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that it had selected former… Continue reading

President’s emergency declaration sparks immediate legal backlash

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team will sue the White House if federal funds originally intended for Washington state are interrupted.

Bill targets sexual health curriculum in Washington schools

Senate Bill 5395 is co-sponsored by 17 Democratic representatives and introduced by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline.
Study shows King County’s treatment funding is making progress

A document on the county’s .1 percent health sales tax was accepted Wednesday by the county council.

Children’s play area at Seadrunar. Photo by Lauren Davis via Facebook
Seedy side of Seadrunar: Drug rehab center accused of neglect, exploitation

Public records reveal that Seattle facility was accused of neglecting children and clients in its care.

Most Read