For several weeks cards, letters and emails have flooded the inboxes of the Kirkland City Council, a sure sign that another development/land use project is before them. Most Kirkland residents are well familiar with the issues surrounding developments in Kirkland. The project names may change, but the debates are generally the same. One side always argues in favor of the project du jour as it represents progress and promotes economic vitality. The other side says the scope and scale of the project are too large and will forever ruin the Kirkland we all know and love.
Thus is the schizophrenic nature of Kirkland. The battlefields of Kirkland cannot be compared to the likes of Gettysburg or Antietam, but for some in this town, mere mention of The Portsmith, Lake and Central or Bank of America brings their blood to a boil.
With such passion and a history of conflicting views of what is best for Kirkland, it is no wonder a development project with the importance of Parkplace has had troops sounding the alarm on both sides of the issue.
Now three years into the project, Touchstone is one step closer to gaining approval to redevelop Kirkland Parkplace into a mixed-use development including office, retail, a new QFC and a hotel.
At the September 21 Kirkland City Council meeting, the council voted 5 to 2 in favor of two ordinances giving Touchstone the green light. Ordinance Numbers 4257 and 4258 were passed, reaffirming Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code amendments for Parkplace. Only two "No" votes were cast - by council members Asher and Greenway - due to concerns with the design of some of the buildings planned for the development, specifically Building E which fronts Peter Kirk Park.
Council chambers were packed with residents wearing "Green Light" stickers in favor of the development and opponents wearing yellow "Slow Down" stickers. All council members recognized the deep level of concern expressed by residents about this development through the numerous emails, letters and even texts they have received.
The issues before the council were narrow and procedural in nature. The primary objections presented were regarding the scope, scale and design of the project. The hope of the opposition was to entice the council to re-open some of the previously settled issues. The majority of the council declined to second-guess the work of the Planning Commission and Design Review Board, and gave Kirkland Parkplace the green light.
Parties close to the opposition said that an appeal of the Design Review Board's work on Building E is being considered.