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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Council Roundup: Nearing decision on light rail agreement

Also, more online permitting and possible state funding cuts

Sound Transit light rail train.The City Council on Monday held one last public hearing to take comments on a long-term, East Link light rail agreement with Sound Transit. The council is scheduled to vote on the landmark agreement at its next meeting on Nov. 14.

Forty-nine people spoke during the hearing on the proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Sound Transit. It was part of an extensive public outreach effort in recent weeks to encourage residents and others to weigh in on a blueprint to bring light rail to Bellevue.

On Sept. 26, some 62 people commented during a public hearing, and on Sept. 20, more than 200 people attended an open house at City Hall, where alignment options were displayed and attendees offered feedback.

The flurry of meetings is the culmination of years of public involvement and studies on East Link -- by both Bellevue and Sound Transit -- since a draft environmental impact statement was issued nearly three years ago, in December 2008.

Among other points, the MOU spells out how the city will make up to $160 million worth of contributions -- such as properties, utility relocations or easements -- toward the cost of a downtown light rail tunnel. The council unanimously supports a tunnel, but it's significantly more expensive than a street-level alternative.

Also addressed in the MOU are issues such as permitting, how Bellevue and Sound Transit will collaborate on light rail design, and how the light rail route would run through Bellevue, particularly between Interstate 90 and downtown.

Councilmembers and residents who live near the proposed light rail route have expressed deep concern about traffic, noise, vibration and visual impacts from light rail. Last week, the council endorsed an alignment that includes an elevated crossing over 112th Avenue Southeast, near Southeast 15th Street, then runs in a trench along 112th Avenue north to a downtown tunnel.

Also written into the MOU are "off-ramp" provisions that allow both parties to terminate the agreement for a variety of reasons.

During a study session prior to the public hearing, the council again studied staff analysis on how to pay Bellevue's share of the tunnel contribution. Funding options include eliminating or delaying projects from the current capital plan, dedicating part of future revenues with no change in current tax rates, raising new revenue through a property tax or business tax increase, or a combination of options.

Sound Transit's Board of Directors has already authorized its chief executive officer to sign the MOU, barring significant changes, so the council's decision on Monday will determine where and how East Link will be located in Bellevue. The council will also vote on a separate transit way agreement.

East Link is set to run from Seattle, through Bellevue, to the Overlake area of Redmond. Construction is forecast to begin by 2015 and service is expected to start by 2023.

For more information about options to fund the city's East Link contribution in the MOU, see the council agenda materials at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketStudySession11-7-112a.pdf. Bellevue and Light Rail offers detailed information about the project.

Feedback: Bernard Van de Kamp, Regional Projects Manager, 425-452-6459 or bvandekamp@bellevuewa.gov

More online permitting
Staff from the Development Services Department reported that the city has expanded its online permitting, enabling contractors and residents to submit plans for mechanical, plumbing and electrical permits electronically.

Calling the October launch of online plan review a "major milestone," Development Services Director Mike Brennan noted that it saves permit applicants time and money, since they no longer have to come to City Hall with rolls of oversized paper documents.

The city aims to provide online plan review for building, fire, right of way, utilities and land use permits by the end of 2012.
Through the e-CityGov Alliance, which operates a variety of regional service portals, the city has been issuing “simple” permits, which require no staff review, online at Mybuildingpermit.com.

More than a third of all construction-related permits in Bellevue are now processed electronically; 73 percent of simple permits in Bellevue are now issued that way.

In September the site was redesigned to allow for mechanical, electrical and plumbing applications that require review by city staff. Such permits include those for installation of systems, such as heating and air conditioning in new construction.

Feedback: Magen Michaud, Development Services Business Systems Manager, 425-452-7109 or mmichaud@bellevuewa.gov

City could lose millions from proposed state cuts
Gov. Chris Gregoire is considering cutting cities' share of liquor revenue and excise tax, which would eliminate $4.4 million from Bellevue's budget over the next three years.

The governor may also cut an annexation sales tax credit, which would provide $1.1 million annually for services delivered to South Bellevue neighborhoods petitioning for annexation. If those unincorporated areas are annexed next year, the proposed cuts would affect the city in 2013 and 2014.

A Nov. 2 letter signed by 115 mayors, including Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson, protested the proposed cuts. "These deep cuts are intolerable," the Association of Washington Cities letter says.

Faced with a $2 billion shortfall for the 2011-12 state budget, Gov. Gregoire identified preliminary options for cuts on Oct. 27. She will present a formal supplementary budget proposal to the Legislature on Nov. 28. 

Feedback: Toni Rezab, Budget Manager, 425-452-7863 or trezab@bellevuewa.gov

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