Despite objections by representatives of the developer, the Kirkland City Council on Tuesday night extended a moratorium that will continue to stall a controversial proposed condominium complex on busy, upscale Lake Street South along Lake Washington.
Although both Councilman Toby Nixon and Mayor Joan McBride argued that moratoriums on development are extreme measures that should not be used to stop any single project, the council voted unanimously to extend one for up to six months in areas zoned “BN,” or neighborhood business. Councilwoman Penny Sweet was absent. The development would be built in one of only two areas in the city zoned BN, which allows residential densities much greater than surrounding zones.
“Moratoriums are not a way to welcome development and growth,” said McBride, who voted against the first moratorium in November. “I don’t think they’re good for anyone.”
Nixon argued that the merits and impact of specific projects should be weighed and mitigated through the permitting process, not by moratoriums. “I continue to be concerned that moratoriums look bad for the city,” he said.
But after continued testimony by residents opposing the densities allowed in the BN designation and concerns that the would worsen already bad traffic and parking, lower property values and change the character of the neighborhood, the council voted to continue the moratorium. That will allow the city’s Planning Commission to finish a review under way of the designation and whether it conflicts with the city’s Comprehensive Plan.
In November, the council unexpectedly adopted an emergency 60-day moratorium to delay the project after angry neighbors stridently expressed concerns about the number of units planned and the project’s impact on traffic, property value and the scenic lakefront neighborhood, which is marked by some of Kirkland’s signature shoreline parks, , and . In December the council extended the moratorium for six months, to allow the Planning Commission to review the BN designation.
The original proposal by Dargey Enterprises of Everett would have created a 143-unit apartment complex across two lots on scenic Lake Street at 10th Avenue South. At a, Lobsang Dargey, said the proposal had been reduced to 115 units that would be condominiums for sale, not apartments.
The moratorium means the city will not accept permit applications for projects in areas zoned BN. Dargey Enterprises has applied for a shoreline permit, but not yet for an actual building permit.
An attorney for Dargey Enterprise, Duana Kolouskova, noted during the hearing portion of the council meeting that the moratorium was enacted specifically to stop the Potala Village project and extending it would violate state law.
“The vast majority of public comments are not in regard to the BN designation” but “to Potala Village,” she noted. “The BN zone has been in place for years. There is no crush of permit (applications) that would warrant a moratorium. The council can continue to require the Planning Commission to review this code without a moratorium .... This moratorium is an improper use of the city’s powers.”
Justin Stewart, whose company would build the complex for Dargey Enterprises, showed the council an artist’s rendition of the Potala Village project and then photos of actual apartments and condominiums already in place along Lake Street and Lake Washington Boulevard. Although he made no reference to the number of units in any of the existing buildings, he noted that their profiles were no less imposing than that of the proposed Potala Village. Many of them appeared even more imposing.
But residents were having none of it.
“I find it incongruous that an applicant can come in here and say, ‘You can’t do this,’” said Tom Grimm, a Lake Street resident. “This is not about Potala Village, it’s about what Potala Village means to this community. It is a big, obstreperous project .... We certainly don’t need it at the gateway to the city.”
Planning Director Eric Shields told the council that the Planning Commission was well into its review of the BN designation and would have proposed code amendments ready for its Aug. 7 meeting. There would also be another public hearing, on June 28.
“I believe we are close to a solution,” McBride said, explaining why she would reluctantly vote for the extension. “We hope this moratorium won’t last for six months.”