Like all cities, Mercer Island is growing. Unlike many cities, our unique Island city has hard boundaries within which to accommodate new growth and keep the conveniences that a small city affords. One of those conveniences is being able to park in the downtown!
Councilmember Dan Grausz said at the Sept. 3, 2013, Council meeting that “despite rumors to the contrary, there is no intention to extend the downtown into the neighbors north of the park-and-ride.” That’s good news, but it needs clarification. Councilmembers are interested in accommodating expansion as part of the Transit Oriented Development concepts popular around the 2023 anticipated light rail stop on the North end. Indeed, the Council’s planning session’s minutes document their interest in expanding northward.
For “vibrant retail” downtown to succeed, there must be easy, adequate parking for customers, diners and all the “strolling” that Councilmember Meyer mentioned. Grausz and Meyer were in the majority who voted to allow inadequate parking at unprecedented lower levels at the Legacy development. Why cut back on parking when we’re being told that inadequate parking is a problem? It makes no sense to me.
The recent Council approval of the Legacy project (old True Value building), which circumvented the usual public process for approval and allowed exemptions from previous parking requirements, is a top example of why it’s time for more citizen involvement. The Mercer building was built five years ago with twice the parking accommodations as the Legacy project. Why cut back on parking when we’re adding hundreds of new housing units? And, parking isn’t the only “special” approval that a majority of the Council supported for these particular developers. There were three more detailed in a March 6 Mercer Island Reporter article, “Legacy Mercer Island project will be five stories.”
Many of us think there’s something odd about the special considerations given by the Council to the Legacy project. One of them was definitely parking. To ensure that this doesn’t become a habit, it’s time to shake up our Council with new people who will be more careful about maintaining development requirements for all developers, all the time.
Islanders want parking accessible to the new restaurants, jazz club and other coming attractions for the town center. I think it’s time to replace the Council members who supported the Legacy project exemptions. Dan Grausz has been on the Council 14 years now. I think it’s time for a change, so I’ll be voting for his opponent Kevin Scheid this time.