Newcastle City Council roundup — March 18

March 19, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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NEW — 2:05 p.m. March 19, 2014

The Newcastle City Council held its second meeting of the month March 18. Here is the Cliffs Notes version of what happened at City Hall. View the full meeting agenda online here.

Put up a parking lot

The City Council approved a zoning code amendment allowing offsite parking for nonresidential uses in residential areas.

Residents won’t likely see a proliferation of parking lots in their neighborhoods though, since there are some specific criteria that must be met to allow the parking lot.

The change stems from a complaint surrounding traffic congestion and pedestrian safety outside of a popular home business — Suzie’s Swim School — which has served locals for almost 20 years.

In an effort to mitigate parking impacts by clients visiting the home business, Suzie and Mike Ervin, Suzie’s Swim School business owners, leased a property north of their home to install a parking area.

According to the yet-to-be amended zoning code though, such an offsite parking area was not permitted.

Since it was an ordinance, there was an opportunity for public comments, and both the Ervins and a neighbor spoke in support of the amendment.

The zoning code amendment passed 4-3.

Council liaison expires

Councilman Rich Crispo’s time as a liaison to the Community Activities Commission came to an end, as the City Council decided against renewing the position.

A council liaison was appointed last year to help the advisory board as it transitioned from the Parks Commission to the Community Activities Commission.

Crispo, who led the changes to the commission, was chosen to serve as the liaison. The council representative, which acted as a nonvoting member of the advisory board, was set to expire at the end of March.

Community Activities Commissioner Linda Newing spoke on behalf of the board at the beginning of the meeting, asking the City Council to keep the position.

Councilman Gordon Bisset made a motion to keep the liaison through the end of the year. It failed 4-3, effectively terminating the position.

The decision to let the position expire was due in large part to newly-hired staff member Wendy Kirchner, the city’s community activities liaison. One of Kirchner’s responsibilities is to work alongside the Community Activities Commission.

With Kirchner on board, and the commission’s transition to a body focused more on community events complete, the majority of the council members decided to let the council liaison position run its course.

City manager gets a raise

After evaluating City Manager Rob Wyman’s performance in several closed executive sessions, the Newcastle City Council approved a $10,000 raise for the position.

The raise, retroactive to Jan. 1, increases Wyman’s annual salary from $120,000 to $130,000. The council also granted Wyman two days of merit leave.

Wyman was hired as interim city manager in January 2010, and the council selected him as the permanent city manager that August. This is the third consecutive year that the council awarded him a raise.

With four years of experience under his belt as a city manager, City Council members felt it necessary to award Wyman’s performance and have his salary reflect what some of his peers are making.

The raise was approved by a 6-1 vote of the council. Deputy Mayor John Drescher was the lone dissent. Drescher said he had no qualms about the city manager’s performance, but he couldn’t in good conscience approve the raise due to concerns “about the costs we’re burdened by.”

Odds and ends

The evening began with a brief presentation from Waste Management about its work in the city and its means of outreach and education to residents.

The Newcastle City Council also approved a social media policy for the city. Adoption of the policy was seen as a proactive measure to provide the city with a level of protection in the event that abuses of social media by the public occur.

Many cities already have social media policies, and Newcastle, with its Facebook and Twitter account, did not have one prior to the March 18 meeting.

What’s next

The Newcastle City Council is expecting a full house at its next meeting, when it hosts representatives from Puget Sound Energy April 1.

Puget Sound Energy will be on hand to answer questions about its Energize Eastside project. The project, in response to the region’s growing power needs, will bring new higher capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside.

The new lines will extend from a substation in Redmond to Renton, but the exact route the lines will take is currently unknown. One of the proposed routes directly affects the Olympus neighborhood.

Learn more about Energize Eastside at http://www.energizeeastside.com.

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