Also, building permits extended and human services levy endorsed
After months of disagreement over where a future East Link light rail route should be located south of downtown, City Council members on Tuesday highlighted positive developments.
"We've been in discussions with Sound Transit," Councilmember John Chelminiak announced. "Those (discussions) have focused in particular on the B Segment, and really looking at the question of -- how do we mitigate?"
Councilmembers Jennifer Robertson, Grant Degginger and Claudia Balducci and Mayor Don Davidson all made statements in support of the discussions. Councilmembers Conrad Lee and Kevin Wallace were absent from the meeting.
"I believe that now is the time to engage with Sound Transit in an in-depth and cooperative discussion," Robertson said, "as we have continued to do, to ensure that we have a route that meets Bellevue's high standards and stays true to our best practices."
Common themes expressed by councilmembers Tuesday included the many years of study that have been devoted to light rail, including the work of a 2007 Light Rail Best Practices Committee, and several studies by independent consultants. They also mentioned the need now for cooperation with Sound Transit and for "exceptional mitigation" to address concerns about noise, visual impacts and the effect on traffic.
East Link will run from Seattle, through Mercer Island and Bellevue, to the Overlake area of Redmond.
Sound Transit, the regional agency that will build East Link, is releasing a final environmental impact statement (FEIS) on the project this week. The detailed report builds on the draft EIS, which was released more than two-and-a-half years ago.
The FEIS will address hundreds of questions and comments made by Bellevue citizens, staff and elected officials. Sound Transit's Board of Directors could decide its final preferred alignment for East Link by the end of July.
A majority of the council has favored a B7 light rail route through South Bellevue, paralleling Interstate 90 and I-405 into downtown. Sound Transit has favored a B2M route that would run parallel to Bellevue Way and 112th Avenue Southeast.
Robertson noted that a recent study commissioned by the council indicated a different version of the B7 route, called B7-Revised, would cost more to build than the B2M route.
Degginger said the council had looked at challenges associated with the Bellevue Way/112th Avenue route and how they could be mitigated. "And those are the issues we're looking at now, how might those (challenges) be mitigated in a manner that is consistent with minimizing transportation impacts, minimizing noise, minimizing visual impacts … ."
Councilmember Balducci said, "This is an important and positive direction ... a recognition that we are united and looking for the best result out of this regional investment in the area."
Mayor Davidson said, "I support the members that I've heard here tonight, and that we're going to move forward in a very positive manner to try to resolve all the issues around Sound Transit's route."
Feedback: David Grant, Director of Communications, 425-452-4090 or email@example.com
Building permits extended
To help developers struggling to launch construction projects in Bellevue during the recession, the council approved an extension on building permits.
With the economic downturn, construction and renovation of residential buildings, office towers and schools throughout the city have come to a grinding halt. Forty-one stalled commercial projects have permits or applications for permits in place. A permit would typically be good for 12 to 18 months.
Council members were concerned that in cases where permits expire before construction has begun, developers would abandon a project rather than face the expense of reapplying for permits.
Now developers will have an additional year for the application process as well as an extra one for issued permits. The council had granted a similar extension last year.
The council passed emergency ordinances, meaning the extensions are effective immediately. The extensions apply to building permits and clearing and grading permits, as well as pending applications for those permits. The time limit was also extended for approved preliminary short plats.
Feedback: Gregg Schrader, Building Division Director, 425-452-6451 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Human services levy endorsed
The council endorsed a county human services levy to appear on the Aug. 16 primary election ballot.
King County's Proposition 1, the Veterans and Human Services Levy, which would replace an expiring levy, would fund programs that provide housing and other services to poor families, immigrants and war veterans.
If passed, the five-year levy would continue a rate of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value property taxes in 2012, the first year of the tax. A King County homeowner would pay $20 on property with an assessed value of $400,000 in 2012. The levy would authorize annual increases tied to the consumer price index or 1 percent, whichever is greater, with a maximum of 3 percent for five years.
The total annual contribution from Bellevue residents for the levy would be an estimated $1.6 million.
Bellevue programs supported at least in part by the levy include those provided by Imagine Housing, the Eastside Interfaith Social Concerns Council, Friends of Youth, the Eastside Cultural Navigator, the YWCA and Hopelink.
Feedback: Emily Leslie, Human Services Manager, 425-452-6452 or email@example.com
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