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Letters | City must enforce code to protect Island’s character
Over the past 40 years, I have seen great change on Mercer Island. Change is inevitable. Change, however, as the city council knows, must be regulated to ensure that it is consistent and compatible with the existing character of this island and its park-like neighborhoods. The city council made this its number one housing goal in its comprehensive plan stating that single-family development should be “compatible with quality, design and intensity of surrounding land uses” and the city code should “promote bulk and scale consistent with the existing neighborhood character.”
But is that happening? Developers are squeezing in narrow, tract-style homes through subdivisions, variances and impervious surface deviations. Out of 22 subdivisions since 2011, more than half of them included requests for a variance of critical area buffers and/or an impervious surface deviation.
As stated by the city’s planning department last summer:
Through April 2013, new single-family home permits are at their highest level in the past four years, and are projected to double the budgeted number by year end. In addition, the city is currently reviewing or has approved subdivisions and short plats totaling 83 lots that we expect to be permitted for new homes in the next few years. (AB 4850, June 3, 2013).
Is this growth consistent with existing neighborhood character? With every new subdivision, we lose more of our park-like neighborhoods and old-growth natural surroundings.
Why is the city letting this happen? Why are developers allowed to carve up single-family lots to create multiple lots with tract-style houses? Why are developers allowed to create narrower lots with crooked side lot lines? Why do they receive variances and deviations from the city code to avoid critical area buffers and impervious surface limitations? These things lead to inconsistent development that is incompatible with existing neighborhoods. I ask the city council and its staff to enforce the protections under the comprehensive plan and city code: Protections intended for Island residents against development that is inconsistent and incompatible with existing neighborhood character. Save the character of this island with its low-density single-family neighborhoods, its wooded and old growth surroundings and its great schools. Protect the character of our island before it’s too late.