LETTER | Public asks Council Members for Records Request Help

 

Dear Editor:

 

In a very open and transparent letter, I am reaching out to Mr. Nixon to see if he might help in what has been a very difficult records request saga that is of great significance to hundreds of Kirkland Citizens.  He recently commented on the importance of this right (see Councilmember Toby Nixon discusses importance of Public Records Act).

 

We have been asking the city to supply evidence of some claimed land use and zoning changes and have never been given the supporting documentation.  An attorney wrote and commented on the city needing to "show their work" and still we did not get anything to show the proper procedures taken to change land use and zoning for a property that has been the focus of tremendous controversy.

 

I, personally, placed a final request for documents and received an email stating that it would take until the end of February for documents that were needed for a February 9th hearing.  I suspect the avoidance and delay is because the proper procedures were not followed and the documentation does not exist.  If it does exist, please encourage the city to deliver the data so that we are not falsely commenting in public arenas such as this.

 

Mr. Nixon (or other electeds)  ... Here's the surprise of the citizens and the records we seek....

1) Within the past year we learned about a cascade of zoning and land use changes that seem to have happened without proper public notice, and perhaps without the City Council being aware of the changes.

 

2) The first change was apparently sometime shortly before 1995.  Two parcels at the corner of 10th St S and Lake St South mysteriously changed in their land use (LUPP) designation from Multifamily 3.6 and Single Family 8.5 to commercial.  Then it seems to have changed back from commercial to residential.... but then "UNNOTICED" changes cascaded from the interim map with "commercial" designation.

 

Our request has been to see the Private Amendment Request from the property owner of either of the two parcels or see any documentation that shows the property owners or neighbors were "NOTICED" or that there was any city initiated action to intentionally change these parcels to commercial.  (Of note is that the zoning stayed at RS 8.5 and RM 3.6 during the time in question).

 

3. The next step in the cascade of change is documentated... but the process does not seem appropriate.  Based on what seems to be a scrivners error, a significant zoning change was implemented through a "legislative" action.  For readers who are unfamiliar with this term, these are changes made by the city with no "NOTICE" because they are minor in significance and uncontroversial. As a close in neighbor to the modified property, I would argue that changing a single family zoned property to commercial is neither minor or uncontroversial to me.  It also seems strange that public records seem to indicate that the owner of the property never knew she'd been rezoned (She filled out a 2005 public document identifying it as single family property).

 

4.  For this final item, we again ask for Toby's help (or other electeds) to speed the public record request. Here again, we have repeatedly challenged the city's claim of a change to UNLIMITED density for these parcels.

 

The city's claim that this change was made seems pretty absurd if you know the history of the Boulevard.  The commercial property appears to have been down zoned in 1977 and was likely part of the 1979 lawsuit.  While the surrounding properties were reduced in development rights from 24 dwellings per acre to 12, the commercial property seems to have been changed at the same time to allow either one dwelling on the property or 18 per acre if it were less than 10% of the project.

 

Absurd comes along with a claim by the city........ A year or two after the reduced zoning penalized hundreds of property owners, and down zoned the commercial parcel ... well supposedly just after doing this Kirkland then took intentional steps to give the commercial property UNLIMITED density!!!???!!!

 

Talk about going over like a lead balloon !!!

 

With all the controversy that was stirring, and with the lawsuit, it is hard to imagine the Council Members would have approved this change or that the surrounding neighbors wouldn't have taken additional legal action.

 

We have been discussing with the planning department that we disagree and do not believe the claim that UNLIMITED density was given to this commercial property.  We have asked to see the documentation and nothing has been provided.  One of the attorneys for the neighbor group wrote the city about their absurd claim and commented that the city must "show its work." We got nothing in response to the attorney letter.

 

Unsuccessful in getting supporting records from the planning department, I have now tried instead to get this information through a public records request.... and again am given a response that indicates a tremendous delay before I might receive anything.  I presume this is because the records simply do not exist because the claimed action never happened (I'll be happy to change my opinion if records ever surface).

 

Here is what is being requested by neighbors who still are penalized by the reduced density and resulting "non-conforming" status...  We need any one of the following, but hopefully all of them.....

1. Staff memo or other evidence of the city initiating this density cap removal, 2. Request from property owners that the properties be given unlimited density, 3. OFFICIAL NOTICE to the property owners or any neighboring property, 4. Any Ordinance or Resolution creating this change, 5. The post adoption published notice announcing the change in the official newspaper of the city.

 

Thanks for your assistance.  We've been struggling through this since March 2011.  We are hopeful that you can help us pick up the pace of access to our public records.

 

Best,

Karen Levenson