Newcastle City Council roundup — July 1
July 2, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
NEW — 3 p.m. July 2, 2014
The Newcastle City Council held its first meeting of the month July 1. Here is the Cliffs Notes version of what happened at City Hall. View the full meeting agenda online here and listen to the full meeting audio here.
Energize Eastside was back on the agenda for the first time since Puget Sound Energy’s April 1 presentation to the City Council.
This time, a citizen group had the chance to offer their own presentation about the project, in response the region’s growing power demands, which will bring new, higher capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside.
Keith Hargis, president of the Olympus Homeowners Association, detailed his community’s concerns, while more than 50 neighbors sat in the audience of the Newcastle City Council chambers.
Hargis highlighted health, safety, easement, pipeline and aesthetic concerns with the proposed installation of 230 kilovolt transmission lines along Route M, which goes through Newcastle.
Along the same proposed corridor sits a gas pipeline that supplies jet fuel to SeaTac Airport, and neighbors are very cognizant of the fact that “accidents do happen,” Hargis said, while pointing out the 1999 Bellingham pipeline explosion.
Installation of the taller transmission poles would not only affect Olympus residents that live directly on the corridor, Hargis said, it would also block views for neighbors, and would cause a visual blight for other parts of the city, including the views from The Golf Club at Newcastle.
Hargis said the community also has concerns about the true requirement of the project.
“This solution seems to be overkill for the problem that exists,” he said.
Hargis ultimately asked the Newcastle City Council and city staff to stay engaged in the Puget Sound Energy developments, ensure that the company’s assumptions are critically examined and consider the impacts to the residents they serve.
In response, Mayor Steve Buri noted that the City Council is “in listening mode,” right now, collecting as much information about the project as possible. Buri then opened the floor for public comment and council questions.
At least one resident was not happy with the city’s inaction when it came to the project, asking why it was the citizens giving an Energize Eastside presentation, not the city.
“What are you waiting for?” he asked.
Later in the meeting, after most had already left, City Manager Rob Wyman said that he and city administrators from other affected municipalities met recently to discuss the project and will continue to do so.
A few residents commented on the Community Advisory Group (CAG) process, organized by Puget Sound Energy to help the company choose a preferred route. The group includes residents and others from the affected communities. Those who spoke said the process was very heavily managed, going so far as calling it a “sham.”
It’s increasingly looking like Puget Sound Energy will select Newcastle’s Route M to upgrade its infrastructure, said CAG representative, and Olympus resident, Dave Edmonds.
He added that the CAG process does not represent the will of the neighborhoods, and posited that PSE had a route in mind from the beginning.
In another plea to the City Council, a resident said, “We need your help, because the process is stacked.”
Learn more about the Energize Eastside and its impact on the Newcastle community in this May 1 Newcastle News story.
Little Rhody Park goes over budget
Little Rhody Park, a new park in the city’s west end, is costing the city $25,000 more than anticipated, the City Council learned as they took a look at a series of 2014 budget amendments.
“This one got away from us, quite frankly,” City Manager Rob Wyman admitted.
The City Council originally allocated $60,000 in its 2014 budget for the development of the park, at the Southeast 80th Street and 113th Avenue Southeast intersection. Parcel improvements were to come in the form of a playground geared toward children ages 5-12.
City maintenance staff spent more time than anticipated on the project, and had to deal with the discovery of a manhole on the property, requiring them to move some pipes around, Wyman said.
The project also expanded as some other materials initially came in cheaper than expected. A $10,000 gazebo was added to the project.
“I think it was a case of everyone getting excited about this project and seeing the response from the neighborhood and wanting to do a good job with the project and it just got a little out of control,” Wyman said.
Deputy Mayor John Drescher, who has been outspoken about his family’s use and admiration for the park, was puzzled at how its cost could get so off-track.
“We don’t have this kind of money to kind of throw at it, even though I think it’s going to be great, and we’ll use it,” he said.
Looking back on it, Wyman took full responsibility, and said staff should have done a full accounting of man hours and costs, before making a decision on the gazebo, which was already purchased.
The City Council ultimately approved the $25,000 budget amendment, along with a few others.
Marijuana moratorium passes
An ordinance imposing a six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses and medical marijuana collective gardens within the city passed 4-3.
Mayor Steve Buri, who voted in favor of the ordinance called it a “sensible mid-step.” Deputy Mayor John Drescher also supported the motion, though added that he would prefer a ban. Council members Gordon Bisset and John Dulcich both voted in favor, as well.
Councilman Rich Crispo said he saw no reason to take any action, and Councilwoman Lisa Jensen agreed, pointing out the low risk in Newcastle actually being able to accommodate a facility due to state rules. Councilwoman Carol Simpson was the other vote against the motion.
City staff considers the potential for any marijuana-related business activity in Newcastle very low due to state Liquor Control Board rules on where marijuana facilities can set up shop. Also, the state’s marijuana retail license lottery came and went without any impacts on Newcastle.
Odds and ends
The City Council wrapped up updates to the traffic and parks impact fees. Both fees were increased.
A representative from the Master Builders Association offered his support for the traffic impact fee, in particular, calling the fee “responsible.”
Transportation impact fees are collected to fund improvements that add capacity to the transportation system, accommodating the travel demand created by new development.
Parks and trails impact fees are collected to fund improvements that add availability of parks and trails throughout the city, accommodating the increased demand created by new residential developments.
Instead of holding their regular meeting, the Newcastle Teen Leadership Board decided to take a field trip to the Newcastle City Council meeting. The group, comprised of local teens, meets monthly to talk about things they’d like to see in the community and organize events.
The board is a partnership between the Coal Creek Family YMCA and the Newcastle Library. New members are always welcome. Contact teen services librarian Donna Day at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Newcastle City Council’s next meeting is July 15.
Energize Eastside is again on the agenda, as Olympus resident Larry Johnson and the Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy (CENSE), give their own presentation about the project. Get there early if you’re planning on attending.