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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Council Roundup: Two council members cleared

Also, agreement eases way for Kelsey Creek Center development

A consultant hired by the City Council to investigate alleged conflicts of interest among council members has concluded that two of them committed no violations; he determined  that further review of a third council member was necessary to reach a conclusion about possible violations.

On Monday, the council voted unanimously on a limited waiver of attorney-client privilege in order to make public two reports from Jeffrey Coopersmith, an attorney with the law firm DLA Piper, who interviewed council members and reviewed documents as part of his independent investigation.

The conflict of interest allegations detailed in Coopersmith's main report were related to the council members' involvement with the East Link light rail project.

Council member Claudia Balducci is a board member of Sound Transit, the agency that will build and operate a light rail line in Bellevue. Coopersmith found there was no conflict with Balducci serving in both positions because state law requires that board members include local elected officials. Also, Balducci indicated she would recuse herself from any Sound Transit Board discussions concerning potential litigation involving the City of Bellevue in order to avoid any future conflicts of interest.

Council member Grant Degginger works for a law firm that represents Sound Transit on projects outside of Bellevue, and he represented Sound Transit in 2003 on a case in Tacoma. In a separate report, Coopersmith determined there was no conflict between Degginger's position as an attorney at Lane Powell and his position as a council member.   

Council member Kevin Wallace was involved in a private business memorandum of understanding with GNP Railway, a freight railway interested in using a rail corridor that Wallace has advocated for light rail use. Coopersmith said he will conduct further investigation to determine whether Wallace's involvement amounts to a conflict of interest. Coopersmith indicated he has asked for documents from the councilmember and that Wallace is cooperating fully with his requests.

Coopersmith is expected to submit his final report to the council in July.

Agreement eases way for Kelsey Creek Center development
To encourage new businesses at the struggling Kelsey Creek Center, the council approved an agreement that gives the owner a break on transportation impact fees.

Kelsey Creek Center LLC, which owns the shopping center in the 15000 block of Main Street, has plans to set up a health club and other businesses in the former Kmart store there and add new buildings for retail and food service on the site.

The company asked to pay $182,000 in transportation impact fees rather than $637,000. If some buildings at the shopping center are not leased by July 2012, Kelsey Creek Center will have to pay at least some of the $455,000 in waived fees.

Kmart anchored the shopping center until it left in 2000. Since then the 106,000-square-foot building it occupied has remained vacant. Costco had leased the property, but abandoned plans for a warehouse store in 2008.

Until last year, redevelopment of the property required the opening or "daylighting" of Kelsey Creek, which runs through the shopping center in a culvert under the parking lot. The city lifted that requirement, allowing redevelopment if the property owner agreed to fund habitat restoration at the nearby Larsen Lake area.

In May the council approved a conditional-use permit allowing renovation of the former Kmart building for a health club, which would occupy about half the building.

For more information, see the council agenda item at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketRegularSession6-6-119a.pdf

Feedback: Carol Helland, Land Use Director, 425-452-2724, chelland@bellevuewa.gov

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