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City Backs Off Houghton/Everest Zoning Review After 'Perfect Storm'

The Kirkland City Council agreed to slow down the review of development regulations in the Houghton business district after alarmed neighbors protested plans were being 'railroaded.'

 

A zoning review of the Houghton/Everett business district that could lead to higher density development and was criticized by residents has been steered off the fast track by the Kirkland City Council after what Mayor Joan McBride called a “perfect storm.”

With a simple head-nod approval, the council agreed with City Manager Kurt Triplett’s recommendation that neighbors be allowed more time to discuss and consider the zoning review of the heart of Houghton, apart from the the ongoing update of Kirkland’s 10-year Comprehensive Plan.

“I just want to say that this is maybe a perfect storm,” McBride said Tuesday night after the council agreed to delay the review, and after residents protested the city’s previous desire to move quickly on it. “This is not what we or the city staff intended. We’re going to step back. We want all our neighborhoods to be comfortable with the process.”

Designated a Neighborhood Center by the city, the area of focus surrounds the primary intersection of Houghton, at NE 68th Street and 6th Street South/108th Avenue NE, which is also adjacent to the Everest area. The future of residential, office and retail occupancy there is being studied by the city Planning Commission, and in the interest of efficiency, the City Council had urged city staff to fold the process into the update of the Comprehensive Plan, required by state law to be completed in early 2014.

The “Houghton/Everest Neighborhood Center Study” was designed to review development regulations for the area, such as building height limits and business space sizes, and higher residential densities for some parts of the area were envisioned.

But many neighbors were alarmed by design sketches prepared for the city showing much larger structures than currently exist in the area (see attached photo and PDF file), and at the council meeting, residents urged a more deliberative process.

Anna Rising of the Everest area noted that some 45 emails opposed to the fast-track review had been sent to the city in a 24-hour period and told the council one of the primary concerns is the already heavy traffic in the area.

“Increased neighborhood densities from the proposed changes in zoning... will only exacerbate this problem of congestion,” Rising said during the public comment period of the council meeting. “We’re asking for equity in giving us the chance to update our plan with a reasonable  amount of time. We don’t want the zoning update rolled into the Comprehensive Plan.”

Houghton resident Beverly Gilbert said neighbors want development consistent with the residential character of the area and said zoning changes should not be “railroaded just for the sake of development.”

The move by the council to step back means one scheduled meeting on the review will be canceled, an Oct. 25 joint session of the Planning Commission and the Houghton Community Council. But the city will conduct a scheduled Oct. 9 (7 p.m.) "neighborhood dialogues" meeting at the Houghton Fire Station, 6602 108th Ave NE.

For updates on the process, residents can subscribe to e-mail notices by following the link www.kirklandwa.gov/neighborhoodcenter and clicking on  “Kirkland Email Alerts” icon.

For a previous Kirkland Patch story on the Houghton/Everest zoning review, click here.

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What is your vision for the Houghton/Everest business area? Is the city moving too fast and too big? Please tell us in the comments box below.

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