Mercer Island City Councilmember Jake Jacobson felt it was vital to schedule a second reading of the ordinance regarding the six-month Town Center development moratorium. He advised council to follow his lead at its Aug. 4 meeting held on Zoom.
Council unanimously voted to set the ordinance for a second reading at its next meeting on Sept. 1. The public could have an opportunity to share their views on this matter, but not as part of the public hearing, according to Mayor Benson Wong. On Aug. 4, Jacobson moved to hold a second reading and Councilmember David Rosenbaum seconded the move.
According to a Community Planning and Development Department report on the Town Center development, “protecting and expanding Mercer Island’s retail sector is of utmost importance to maintaining and improving the quality of life and emergency preparedness by providing local access to goods and services that are necessary to meet the daily needs of residents.”
On Aug. 4, Jacobson noted about his comments on the issue at council’s July 21 meeting, which featured a public hearing: “The intent was not to do some special favor for the Farmers site necessarily, which has never had any retail on it or at least not since the bowling alley that predates most of us. (It was) also to make clear that the east side of 80th, which is totally multi family, would also not be part of the focus of the moratorium, since neither of those areas currently hold retail.”
Ordinance No. 20-18 would amend the scope of the Town Center moratorium to include the area south of Southeast 29th Street, east of 77th Avenue Southeast, west of 80th Avenue Southeast and north of Southeast 32nd Street.
At its last meeting, Councilmember Lisa Anderl said she voiced opposition to narrowing the scope of the moratorium to exclude the Farmers building.
“I feel like what the council did and wanted to do was to step back and consider retails. By peremptorily excluding a large block that would have the potential for retail, I think we’re doing a disservice to the moratorium itself and also to the community, from who we have had little input,” she said. “I take it that we had a legal public hearing, but I think we also needed to take in the nuances associated with COVID and the difficulties people are having, keeping abreast of issues and commenting.”
Alison Van Gorp, deputy director of the city’s Community Planning and Development Department, said she doesn’t believe any planned remodel or upgrade to the existing Farmers building would be stopped by the moratorium.
“It would not trigger the major new construction threshold. It’s considered a remodel or a minor change,” she said.
Van Gorp added that her department is currently drafting a request for proposal for consultant support with the retail analysis, which they’ll share with council in the fall.
It’s been two and a half months since council unanimously adopted the six-month moratorium on the acceptance of permit applications for “major new construction” in the portion of Mercer Island’s Town Center Zone south of Southeast 29th Street. The temporary moratorium does not include single-family development.
For more information on the Town Center Zone, go to https://bit.ly/372OU5G.
* City Council’s Aug. 18 meeting is canceled and it will next meet at 5 p.m. Sept. 1 on Zoom.