Newcastle City Council roundup — July 15
July 16, 2014
By Christina Corrales-Toy
NEW — 2 p.m. July 16, 2014
The Newcastle City Council held its second meeting of the month July 15. Here is the Cliffs Notes version of what happened at City Hall. View the full meeting agenda online here.
For the second straight meeting, the Newcastle City Council had a full audience, as neighbors gathered to hear another presentation about Puget Sound Energy’s Energize Eastside project.
This time, the citizen group Coalition of Eastside Neighborhoods for Sensible Energy (CENSE) had the chance to offer its own presentation about the project.
In response to the region’s growing power demands, Energize Eastside will bring new, higher capacity electric transmission lines to the Eastside.
CENSE co-founders Steve O’Donnell and Don Marsh, however, questioned the true magnitude of the need.
Marsh pointed specifically to Puget Sound Energy’s “Eastside Customer Demand Forecast” graph, which shows that by 2017 or 2018, demand for power will exceed capacity. The graphic, which is shown at PSE’s public meetings and can be found on its project website, is fiction, CENSE argued.
The group challenged PSE’s projections that electricity demand is growing at an annual rate of 2 percent. Marsh said that demand has actually been flat or declining, both on the Eastside and nationally, for at least the past six years, even with population growth.
He added that a Bellevue study anticipates a rate of growth that is less than half of PSE’s projections.
O’Donnell said he acknowledged the need for PSE to provide reliable power, but argued, “There are better ways to do it.”
To that end, Marsh offered several alternatives to PSE’s proposed solution, including time-of-day pricing, which would encourage residents to conserve by using electricity at off-peak hours for a discount.
He also mentioned that grid batteries are being used for projects in major cities across the nation, and noted that Tesla’s Elon Musk and Segway inventor Dean Kamen are both working on residential batteries that will make the need for transmission lines recede.
The group ultimately asked the Newcastle City Council to work with other cities and hire an independent expert to evaluate the project. CENSE also encouraged council members to keep citizens up to date about any Energize Eastside developments.
Newcastle Mayor Steve Buri responded by saying the City Council has been thoughtful in its consideration of the project. Buri also said that Energize Eastside is a “front-burner issue” for the city.
“It’s easy to be loud,” Buri added, but the Newcastle City Council is choosing to be strategic and methodical in its approach to the situation.
The city is in regular communications with the other affected municipalities, Buri said. City Manager Rob Wyman also noted that there is a lot more going on at the staff level that might not necessarily be visible to the public.
CENSE is composed of volunteers representing all five affected cities and neighborhoods. The group says it is pro-growth, pro-economy and pro-neighborhood.
“This shouldn’t be in anyone’s neighborhoods,” O’Donnell said, referring to PSE’s proposed infrastructure upgrade and installation connected to the project.
CENSE also has a technical committee that includes engineers, an energy industry consultant and a system planner that worked for both Seattle City Light and PSE.
State of the County
King County Councilman Reagan Dunn gave his State of the County speech prior to the CENSE presentation and touched on a variety of topics.
Dunn said the memorial to the 16 members of the King County Sheriff’s Office who have been killed in the line of duty, including Newcastle’s Richard Herzog, is currently in the design phase.
He also spoke about his work on the King County Flood Control District, and thanked former Mayor Rich Crispo for his assistance in helping to establish its flood-reduction grant program.
Before finishing, Dunn said he was keenly aware of the Puget Sound Energy project and is interested in what action the cities decide to take.
Odds and ends
Residents from the Newport Woods neighborhood came to express their concerns about a proposed 80-unit mixed-use apartment complex along Newcastle Way.
Residents had concerns about privacy, noise, the density and more. The project, which would be located next to City Hall, is currently under preliminary review.
One resident said she understood the area was zoned for office space, while another, who recently moved to Newcastle, said he felt “bait-switched,” and may not have moved here if he knew about the apartment complex.
The Newcastle City Council approved an ordinance that changed the city’s official bank to HomeStreet Bank from KeyBank. Changing banks will result in reduced fees and higher returns on investments.
Speakers won’t have to state their address during public comment anymore, after the City Council made a handful of changes to its own rules and procedures. Name and neighborhood will now suffice.
The Newcastle City Council next meets Aug. 5 for its budget retreat.