From last night’s Alki Community Council meeting: The official comment period for the proposed rezoning of six waterfront acres east of Salty’s on Alki has been extended through August 1st. We first reported on the rezoning proposal two weeks ago; ACC invited a city planner to the meeting to help them understand the proposal and the process.
(Map from city’s official notice of the rezoning proposal)
Jerry Suder from the city Department of Planning and Development was invited to help ACC find out more about the proposal – vice president Randie Stone made it clear, they weren’t discussing or debating its merits or lack thereof, just trying to gather information. Suder made clear that the rezoning was requested by the property owner, not by the city.
He outlined the process as it should unfold from here:
*DPD review and recommendation, including State Environmental Policy Act considerations
*Hearing Examiner “open record hearing” with public comment
*Hearing examiner review and recommendation to City Council
*Anyone who disagrees can file a motion to be heard by the council
*Council committee decides whether to move to full council for final decision
He said public comments have to go through DPD or through the hearing examiner; the council will be taking a “quasi-judicial action … based on the record presented to (them) by the Hearing Examiner” – the council itself will not be allowed to take further public comments.
Suder also said this is a relatively rare kind of rezone, involving an industrial area. And he said “From a zoning standpoint, (this is) not a radical kind of rezoning … for the most part (the current and proposed zoning) are pretty similar.” But as he pointed out, the proposal also seeks to change the area’s “shoreline designation,” which Suder says is “not fully” in the hands of the city. It’ll “all get reviewed together,” he says, but in the case of the shoreline-designation change, it would go to the state after the council approved it.
If you’d like to see the planning documents or file, you can go to the DPD downtown and take a look, Suder acknowledged.
“Do you know what they want to do (with the property)?” asked an attendee.
“I don’t know what they want to do, and I suspect they’re specifically not telling that.”
Suder was asked what different uses would be permitted if the zoning change was approved. The changes Suder identified mostly had to do with industrial uses – and had more to do with industrial uses that would have been allowed under the current zoning, but not in the future zoning. There was “one quirk” he identified, while saying he “didn’t want to read too much into this” – currently you can’t “do an adult cabaret,” but if the zoning change is approved, “it would be possible.”
“Why don’t you require them to tell you what they want to do when rezoning?” asked an attendee.
“(An owner might) just want to rezone and (sell) it,” Suder replied.
He also pointed attendees to some of the city publications regarding criteria and process for zoning changes, and permitted uses in different kinds of zoning.
Anecdotally, without specific numbers, Suder said rezoning proposals are on the rise.
VP Stone recalled the Greater Harbor 2000 process from almost 20 years ago, in which there were ideas for this site including a shopping center. (Alki, by choice, does not have a city-facilitated neighborhood plan – it opted out of the process in the ’90s.) She is curious about the vision for this site, she said, but also a little worried about the proposal to change the waterfront designation, which she notes is usually very difficult.
Rezoning proposals are difficult in general, Suder said, because few sites precisely meet the criteria for any one particular zone. He also acknowledged that though August 1st is the official cutoff now for comments – if your comment comes in after that, and is relevant, it will still likely be included for consideration.
There was a fair amount of skepticism and curiosity about why this would be pursued without a specific development plan accompanying it. Even if the applicant said what they might have in mind, Suder pointed out, without anything having been proposed yet, that could be changed anyway. Another attendee pointed out that it’s not necessarily in a businessperson’s best interest to show their hand too soon regarding what they hope to do down the line. The property has a history of multiple proposals, someone else pointed out, “and that’s why we’re suspicious.”
Whatever you think about it, if you would like to comment – here’s the form to use.
(More from last night’s Alki Community Council meeting in a separate report later today.)