The City of Kirkland, the developer proposing a large and controversial apartment project for the upscale Lake Street South area and angry neighbors will enter meditation talks Monday in an effort to resolve the conflict.
City Attorney Robin Jenkinson said city staff, developer Lobsang Dargey of Dargey Enterprises and members of a neighborhood group opposed to the “Potala Village” project -- along with their lawyers -- will meet Monday with mediators from the King County-managed Inter-Local Conflict Resolution Group. A second session is scheduled for Oct. 15.
“It looks positive,” Jenkinson said Thursday.
The mediation was suggested by City Manager Kurt Triplett, a former acting King County executive, and all sides have agreed to meet.
But it appears the neighbors and the developer will begin the talks on opposite sides of a long table. Two attorneys representing the neighbors and one member of the group STOP Potala kept up their steady drumbeat for lower residential density limits on the site at the Kirkland City Council's Tuesday night meeting.
The council had earlier asked the city Planning Commission to consider changes to the “BN” family of zoning designations last year after Dargey Enterprises filed for a state shoreline permit to build a 143-unit development, triggering an outcry from the neighbors. Twice the city has enacted moratoriums on issuing new building permits in the BN zone, prompting a lawsuit filed in May by Dargey Enterprises.
The council is expected to take action on the Planning Commission’s recommendations for density limits in the zoning designations known as “BN” (Neighborhood Business) and the similar “BC” at its next meeting, on Oct. 16. Currently the BN designation has no density limit.
The commission is recommending that density be restricted to 36 residential units per acre at the proposed Potala Village site, which is on two lots across 1.2 acres at the intersection of 10th Avenue South and Lake Street South. Neighbors are urging it be limited to 24 units per acre, as is recommended for two other locations in the BN family of zones, one on south Rose Hill and the other on Market Street.
Dargey Enterprises first proposed a complex with 143 units on the Lake Street site, later offering to reduce that to 110. But if the Planning Commission’s recommendation is approved by the council and applied to the Potala Village project, only some 40 units could be built on the site.
But the neighbors’ attorneys and one neighbor Tuesday urged the council to act right away to limit density at the Potala Village site to 24 units per acre like the other two areas, or less.
Attorney Brian Lawler noted that the state Growth Management Act, which requires updates every 10 years of municipalities' comprehensive plans, urged compatibility in zoning. “We feel they all need to be the same density, and not based on a ‘gut feel,’” he said.
The "gut feel" comment was a reference to a remark in an earlier meeting by the Planning Commission chairman that the Lake Street site recommendation was based to some extent on commission members’ general sense of compatibility with surrounding densities.
Lake Street resident Tom Grimm, a frequent speaker at city council meetings, was more blunt. “We don’t like what you’re planning to do,” he said. “We don’t want that foisted upon us.”
For more Kirkland Patch coverage of the Potala Village proposal, click here.