Will the city make Neighborhood Conservation Districts available as a tool for interested neighborhoods to use if they choose to preserve their “character”?
City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen has been exploring the idea for a while, presenting a briefing on a study last September, and convened a discussion at the High Point Community Center last night, the second of three around the city (the third and final one is on Phinney Ridge tonight).
One challenge: The legislation to be brought up for a council vote hasn’t been written yet. So while those in attendance had many questions, few answers were available. Here’s the slide deck that was shown:
The first round of meetings is being held primarily to gauge community interest. One point made clear: These districts couldn’t be created to stop development projects already on the drawing board. Questions focused on what would or would not be allowed in a district, and how that might affect property owners’ rights, given that in theory, one could be implemented without unanimous approval of affected owners. Would it come down to something simple like, what kind of fence you could put up? Answer: If there are guidelines for that, yes. Wouldn’t that make this something like a homeowners’ association? another attendee asked. And what about people moving into the district long after it was created?
Other questions: What disclosure will there be for property owners regarding the costs of these districts? What’s the final cost to the city, considering that if an area can be as small as a block, hundreds could spring up. (Rasmussen’s legislative assistant Evan Clifthorne said he expected this to start slowly.) Which city department would run the program? Probably the Department of Neighborhoods – but nothing’s finalized yet.
Again, lots of questions – the answers will depend on what’s in the official proposal. We asked Councilmember Rasmussen afterward about the likelihood of this making it to the finish line before, or after, he leaves office; his view is that if the council sees enough interest from citizens, they’ll carry it through, and public meetings like this one are one way to do that. (Our informal count last night was around 20.)
If you’re interested in the topic and can get to north Seattle, tonight’s meeting is at 6 pm at the Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Avenue N.
SIDE NOTE: Speaking of centers, we noted that several people were confused about last night’s location (including our crew!). So many meetings are held at Neighborhood House‘s High Point Center (6400 Sylvan Way, not a city-run facility) that any mention of a “center” in High Point seems to send people there. The site of last night’s meeting is officially called High Point Community Center, a Seattle Parks-operated facility at 6920 34th SW.