LETTER | Private Amendment Requests - Which developers must wait and which get fast tracked?

Dear Editor:


Just a few quick comments on Comprehensive Plan, Zoning and PARs (Private Amendment Requests.


Comprehensive Planning is dictated by GMA.  It necessarily requires broad public outreach and input.  It looks at the growth targets for the city overall and it assigns growth to areas where it is compatible.  Land use planning is thus done in a coordinated  fashion.


Then comes Zoning.  This is something less driven by public input (although some of public are required to be noticed).  This is more of a staff function choosing words to make up the zoning text that will fully implement the Comprehensive Plan that was decided upon by citizens, city staff, commissioners and City Council Members.


So now to the developers.  Many come in with visions that are not supported by the zoning or they may not be supported by the Comprehensive Plan, or they may not be supported by a more recently passed Ordinance (local law).  Zoning code requires that the most restrictive of these apply any time there are conflicts (KZC 170.50).


To the rescue are Private Amendment Requests (aka PAR).  This is the mechanism that a developer uses whenever they want to propose something that is not currently allowable.  The good thing is there is this a way to have the city review an alternative that was not previously allowed.  The bad thing is that it takes a very long time and developers often wait and wait.  Some are encouraged by the city to wait for the next Neighborhood Plan update.  Currently we have many developers who have completed their PARs or been waiting for neighborhood plan changes for a very long time - MRM, Woosley, Waddell, a recent public speaker re: Tech City Bowl, etc.


Then, we have others who are crafty in the way they try to cut in line ...Potala Village (not consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and not consistent with more recently approved Ordinances - local law - wherein these BN properties were designated "Residential Market - Commercial" and that law defined this lowest intensity of uses) and Pantley SRO (a unique style of housing for which we currently do not have zoning - up to 8 bedrooms that share a kitchen ... kind of communal space except for ones own room) and a new fangled, unproven, "parking management strategy" in lieu of meeting the downtown parking requirement.


We are not supposed to be making Zoning Changes or Comp Plan Changes to accommodate a project without the careful and deliberate steps of a PAR and the opportunity for the required public participation.


Working backwards in planning process, that is, starting with a project and then crafting zoning, and then rewriting the Comp Plan to match is spot zoning.  This favors one party in a manner that is inconsistent with the careful and deliberate process outlined by Growth Management.   It is also disrespectful to those developers who submitted their PAR requests long ago and have been waiting for the city to have the time to hear their case.


How did Potala advance in the manner it did?  The overdue zoning text to implement the definition of "Residential Market" is an essential and overdue responsibility of the city planning staff and will continue to be challenged for "Failure to Act" if the text to implement the deliberate decisions of the CP are not soon completed.  Other than these required changes, why have we spent so much time trying to find a way to allow an incompatible building of incompatible intensity be built?  Why did this relatively new developer get to fast track his ideas while those who have helped us build Kirkland sit and wait .... and wait ... and wait.  Staff should have spent city time with those who follow the proper process.


Karen Levenson