Also, shoreline regulations reviewed, concerns overs proposed power line and capital projects planning
The City Council again wrestled with the sensitive topic of how best to regulate the retail sale of recreational marijuana in Bellevue. In separate actions, they held a public hearing on tightening the city's existing, interim ordinance, and by a 5-2 vote rejected a proposed ordinance to implement a moratorium on all marijuana uses in the city.
Last October the council adopted a six-month, emergency ordinance that established interim zoning regulations for recreational marijuana uses. The ordinance was renewed earlier this year for another six months, and the council amended it to require that a retail outlet be no closer than 1,000 feet from another retail outlet. That change necessitated last night's public hearing, which drew a total of two people who spoke in opposition to allowing any marijuana uses in Bellevue.
In separate business, the council voted down a proposed ordinance to implement a moratorium on all marijuana uses in the city. Several councilmembers said they want to respect the will of Bellevue voters, 58 percent of whom voted in favor of Initiative 502, the 2012 statewide measure legalizing limited marijuana possession and use for people 21 and older.
During debate over the proposed moratorium, the council considered several issues they want to pursue in the future. They include: a zero-tolerance policy by police for minors entering a marijuana retail business and for smoking marijuana in public; a ban on processing hash oil in residences; prohibiting growing medical marijuana outdoors, especially near property lines; a community-wide education effort; and further study about how marijuana-related costs will be shared.
The state Liquor Control Board, which is in charge of implementing I-502, has allocated four recreational marijuana retail licenses for Bellevue. Stores are expected to begin operating as early as this summer. The city's Planning Commission will begin work soon on permanent regulations for recreational marijuana.
More information about the recreational marijuana ordinance is available online (http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession5-12-143c.pdf)
Shoreline Master Program
Also on Monday, the council held a fourth study session on the city's Shoreline Master Program Update. It was the first of three in-depth reviews of issues identified by the city's Planning Commission as most important to the development of its recommendation.
Topics included public access and accommodation of shoreline park development; establishment of the ordinary high water mark used to measure shoreline jurisdiction and setbacks; and regulation of residential shoreline development that will become non-conforming once the SMP is updated.
The next in-depth review session is scheduled for the council meeting on May 27 and will include an in-depth discussion of setbacks, buffers, vegetation conservation and critical areas. More information on the SMP is available online (http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession5-12-143e.pdf)
Concerns over proposed electrical line
Approximately 100 residents attended Monday's council meeting to express concern about a new electrical transmission line proposed by Puget Sound Energy.
PSE's Energize Eastside project would bring 18 miles of new, higher-capacity (230 kilovolt) transmission lines to the Eastside. PSE officials say the project is needed to provide dependable power to serve the region's expected growth.
Speakers from neighborhoods where the proposed routes could be located raised several concerns. They included: visual impacts from the towers; PSE community engagement efforts; route selection process and analysis; the potential loss of trees; and possible health risks from electromagnetic fields.
The council's message was clear: they are paying close attention to the ongoing community engagement effort led by PSE and they will advocate for the community and ensure neighborhood and city interests are addressed. At the council's invitation, PSE will present an update during the next council meeting on May 19.
Councilmembers also want more information on the role of the state Utilities and Transportation Commission (or other appropriate regulatory body) and the role of the council and city on this important project. This is an issue that will continue to be monitored closely by city staff and the council over the coming months and years.
Capital projects planning
The council continued a discussion started at its March 24 meeting about the city's 2015-2021 Capital Investment Plan, and a longer-term "roadmap" that explores a broader vision for priority investments. One issue is that the cost of potential unfunded projects far outstrips available resources. The council will continue the discussion at its June 9 meeting.
More information on the capital investment strategy is available online (http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession5-12-143d.pdf)
National Kids to Parks Day
Saturday, May 17, was proclaimed National Kids to Parks Day, an effort to connect youth across the country with nature and encourage them to explore the outdoors. In Bellevue, the day will be marked with several walks and programs at parks across the city. Locations and times are listed online with the council agenda material (http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketExtendedStudySession5-12-142a.pdf)
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