Sunnyland Planning Process Explained - Partially

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Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 10:47 pm  //  Guest writer

Mike Rostron guest writes this.  Mike posted this as a comment to my article - but it is a better summary and deserves to stand alone. - Servais

It was a step in the right direction, largely due to the efforts of councilman Terry Bornemann who pointed out that the Sunnyland neighborhood has worked hard for seven years to get permanent zoning assigned for this sub-area. The council did not send on the illegal “modification” by the city planning department (actually a separate improperly docketed zoning plan in its own right) in spite of the planning department’s effort to promote it, complete with a fancy diagrams and photos, etc. There is still no guarantee we will have single family medium density zoning consistent with neighborhood character in this sub-area. (The former D.O.T. property is a sub-area of 4 acres. This is not a site-specific zoning proposal, although the planning department has changed that language to improperly favor the developer over the residents.). The planning committee may well modify the SNA proposal, or throw it out completely.

One thing some on the council seemed confused about was the owners rights in this issue. Actually, the owner’s rights only properly begin once permanent zoning has been enacted, and the right to set permanent zoning, for very good and democratic reasons, belongs only to the city council. Otherwise, who would devise zoning for the city—developers?! Of course developers who own large parcels certainly have a right and good reason to advocate for zoning that they want on a parcel like the DOT sub-area which has not yet had permanent zoning assigned. The SNA agrees with the developers that the current default zoning, which would only allow two homes to be built, is unreasonable. (Although many in the neighborhood were in favor of a park as the proper use for that sub-area, and were dismayed that D.O.T. was able to cut a deal with the developer without public participation. Here again, at the state level, taxpayers subsidized a for-profit private developer.)

This is a crucial point. Some members of the council seem to think the property owner/developer has the right to demand any zoning they want. Actually, the developer only has the right to build within existing zoning restraints once they are in place, and in this case, that zoning has yet to be set. So the thirty minutes of council time the owner and his consultant and lawyer were allotted, which they spent threatening the council with obscure legalities and spurious claims, were completely specious, fallacious, and deceptive. A certain city council person stated she did not agree with neighborhood associations bringing such proposals to the council for consideration. If not the actual residents of a neighborhood then who else? Profit only motivated developers and corporations? Consultants from other cities? Construction lobbyists? Shouldn’t the folks who reside in and own property in the neighborhoods have a major voice in zoning within the areas they live? If not, how different is our system from a feudal system where large property owners control all, and the peasants and peons are subject to the will of the dukes and barons who control the major tracts of land?

Although the city has now conveniently changed the code language, the Sunnyland neighborhood was originally, seven years ago, asked to participate, and even encouraged to formulate their own proposal. Had we brought forth a multi-family zoning proposal utilizing the consultant’s housing types (consultants who were paid from city coffers out of our tax receipts to essentially advocate for developers against the neighborhood residents) you can bet the planning department and city council would have been singing our praises rather than stalling and opposing our efforts for the past seven years. Of course they want the neighborhoods to participate, but only if they agree with their developer-driven vision of the new Bellevue On The Bay.

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