May 6, 2011

By Staff

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Veteran Newcastle councilman to retire in December

I am writing to announce that after 17 years of community service, I will not be running for re-election to the Newcastle City Council.

I am proud of how far our community has come. When we struggled to incorporate the city of Newcastle, the then-Chair of the King County Council echoed Gertrude Stein’s opinion of Oakland, saying “There is no there there.”

Since incorporation in 1994, we encouraged the location of the prominent Golf Club at Newcastle on the site of an old landfill. We provided incentives for the location of a full-service YMCA — now overflowing with active users — and an 11,000-square-foot King County library, now under construction.

We encouraged the funding and construction of two new elementary schools in the city. We leveraged Newcastle’s small capital resources over this period to construct major street, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, like the $55 million Coal Creek Parkway project and the $4 million Newcastle Transit Center.

All these amenities have attracted a highly diverse population of new residents and the construction of a large number of new, high-valued homes. Since incorporation, our population has grown by almost 50 percent to its current 10,300 residents.

Newcastle is now “on the map.” It has become a highly desirable place to live, all the while maintaining the green canopy of parks and open spaces that characterize our community. Newcastle residents feel a sense of place, a sense of belonging to a real community of neighbors. Now, when we tell people that we live in Newcastle, they often respond “Oh, you live in Newcastle,” with eyebrows raised in admiration.

I hope the future leaders of our community will safeguard this legacy and sustain our community’s vision into the future.

Sonny Putter

Newcastle City Council

Wanted: vision and leadership

I am surprised at the lack of reporting on the City Council’s efforts to dismantle Newcastle’s downtown plan.

The current downtown plan calls for a pedestrian-friendly, multistory, mixed-use town center along the lines of what Mercer Island and many other cities are doing. But the council is pushing changes to the downtown zoning code that would invite single-story, strip-mall uses, like those along Sunset Boulevard.

If the council adopts these changes, you will soon see a Walgreens with a drive-through on the fruit stand corner. Other similar uses will likely follow.

The council says these uses are needed to increase city revenues. But this defies common sense. Fiscal analyses prepared when the downtown zoning code was first adopted showed that multistory, mixed-use development would provide significantly greater revenues than single-story, strip-mall development.

Construction sales tax revenues would increase due to greater expenditures on construction materials. Property tax revenues would increase due to the much higher assessed value of multistory buildings.

In addition, with specialty restaurants and shops on the ground floor and office or residential uses above, there would be more downtown workers and residents to patronize businesses. Therefore, sales tax revenues would increase over the long term as well.

As the economy improves, commercial development is starting again in cities around us. With vision and leadership on the part of the council, Newcastle could attract high-quality developers to create a vibrant, financially sustainable downtown.

Our current downtown plan and zoning code won the Governor’s Smart Growth Award. It is still the smart way to grow.

I ask all of you who have pride in our city to speak out at a council meeting, or write or email your councilmembers. Ask them to stop opening the door to Walgreens and other strip-mall uses. We deserve better.

Jean Garber



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