Potala Village sparks neighborhood activism

Developing in Kirkland can be a costly and lengthy process even under the best circumstances. But when a development runs afoul with its neighbors, all bets are off. Case in point: Potala Village, a planned 143 unit apartment project on Lake Washington Blvd. at 10th Ave. S.

Concerned neighbors are rallying around an effort to stop, or at least minimize the negative impact from, many months of construction and a lifetime of increased traffic and density on a street which is already over capacity.

At a recent Kirkland City Council meeting, concerned neighbors wearing red shirts filled the council chambers in a show of support for the three individuals who spoke against the project before the council. Council rules limit items from the audience to three speakers for and three speakers against any one issue.

The project is undergoing review by the city at this time. The developer has proposed a project which asks for zero variances. Neighbors are filing appeals. And the city council is caught in the middle.

At a recent city council meeting, council member Doreen Marchione asked City Attorney Robin Jenkinson about the Council’s role in this stage of the Potala Village project. Jenkinson said the council could enact an Interim Emergency Regulation to change the zoning of the property upon which the development is planned. The options for the council are limited.

A Neighborhood Alert! brochure is being distributed to inform the public and to gain additional support for the concerned neighbors.

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As a side note, we want to recognize that the developer of Potala Village, Dargey Enterprises, is as good as they come. The ethos of the company and the LEED certification plans for the project are in sync with the ethos of the City of Kirkland. The real problem with Potala Village is with the zoning for the parcel which provides for far greater density than neighboring parcels. If the developer is following the rules provided by the city, what more can we expect? If an error was made by the city at some stage in the past, we must recognize this as the case and not blame the wrong party. If errors are made today, we need to correct them. If the developer misrepresents things to the city, they need to be held accountable.

Our point is this: Much anger has been generated around this development. The neighbors feel something is seriously wrong with the process. Their efforts are making a difference. The city is paying attention. Everyone wants to find a harmonious solution. We hope that the energies expended to fight this project are aimed at the appropriate parties and that they are successful in finding a solution acceptable for all.[/box]