Breaking News! We can do better! Position #1

This afternoon I put my name in for the City Council position #1, currently occupied by Councilor Rick Ryan!  We can do better!

I am looking for people willing to help get a Candidate who is FOR the current citizens of Mountlake Terrace and not beholden to special interest groups.  I have tirelessly worked for the interest of you, people of Mountlake Terrace.  Most recently I have been serving you on the City Hall Advisory Committee trying to get the committee to a frugal, modest and reasonable City Hall offer.  (More on that later...) I have been speaking with your elected Councilors, trying to get them to see what is reasonable to today's citizens! Contribute your time, your yard (for a sign), your voice (toward your neighbors and friends), organize a meet the candidate event, help meet the expenses of this race (no dollar turned away [smile]) and engage in changing the fabric of the City Council!

Frog in a Pot: a Terrace Saga

posted Oct 19, 2015, 11:50 AM by Stephen Barnes

This is the expanded version of an issues statement I sent into the Everett Herald which appeared on the 13th of October.  Sometimes we can't view the whole picture, but we get indications of our City health by small measures:

Frog in a pot: a parking saga
 
Mountlake Terrace has been granting reductions to parking for any builder who will listen and that will impact your neighborhood (and our future downtown) if you are within a half mile of our "downtown" and will severely impact your parking if you are within 1/3 mile of the transit hub.  It is soon to be joined by a light rail component (more parked cars) and over 650 apartments.  That will add to the parking dilemma transit users already face with a parking garage filled years ahead of the predictions.  Expect to see some of their cars in nearby streets as well.
 
You probably remember the old story about a frog in a tepid pot where the temperature rises and rises until the frog is cooked?  That frog is us and the cook is the current Terrace City Council, including my long-tenured opponent.  The record is one of continuously increased density.  In 2006 they came up with a brilliant idea to fix our 30 year stagnant growth by talking up a new city hall.  (Yep, we have had 30 years hanging around 20,000, give or take a few hundred.)  Anyway, as they continued the discussion in 2009, they imagined small ten story skyscrapers and underground utilities, an infrastructure to help like the three million they had included in the latest two city hall proposals (which not enough people said "yes" to) for a downtown 100 year drainage system that all new downtown builders must buy in to at a substantial discount to building something compliant themselves which you provide.  As a side note, Vineyard Park which was recently completed benefited from "your" investment: they stated they saved over half the cost of complying with the 100 year standard themselves.  Recently the Council was told that the infrastructure we are scheduled to pay has spiraled upward from eleven million to as much as 25 million (more if you include that 100 year drainage)!  Then the mayor himself said that he might not have gone ahead if he understood the cost creep it has undergone.
 
Why should this interest you?  First of all, your name is on the bill for this adventure the Council calls Town Center.  In 2006 the opposition to going any higher than three stories was wiped away.  Yes, they did have town meetings but it was the very small minority which spoke for an urbanized town center which was to be kicked off by a new City Hall, based on their own published materials (the Dec 2009 updated Town Center plan available on the City's website).  The Council did not (hats off) go for ten story building heights in our little downtown area which they had first suggested to you, the public.  They settled for a block of seven story and then five and four stories permitted in the core area and down mainstreet (56th) a permitted three story height.  (So why did they allow a five story building on 244th, currently under construction?  But I digress...)
 
Well, what does that have to do with parking?  Because the city staff in behalf of the "vision" of the current council has been granting exceptions to our reasonable  2009 agreed ordinances of 1.25 parking spaces required per home downtown. That was changed at least twice since then. 

How did the City's regulations state it?  The regulations state: "Recommended parking requirement:  In order to create a vibrant, mixed use district, it is important that the area is neither under or over parked. Using shared parking strategies, realistic parking requirements are two spaces per 1,000 square feet for most retail and office uses. For residential units, an average of one space per unit, plus an additional guest space to be shared between every four units, is optimal. 

The original cry when the city came up with the urban center idea was that there should be one parking space for every new home in an apartment building downtown.  Is that suddenly not realistic?  When downtown signature piece Arbor Village was drawn up, the city gave them a sweetheart deal: build 123 units (that's 153 parking spots for apartments based on the 2009 agreement with you PLUS 20 more for the businesses for a grand total of 174) but we will only require 123 parking spaces TOTAL of the builder.  And that despite the fact that business customers should have a place to park too!  Some of you neighbors knows where the others are parking.
 
What can we do about it?  As your candidate willing to represent the majority suburbanites, you need a voice questioning benefits to builders that end up on your and my back.  I propose to be that voice if you will send in your ballot, voting for Steve Barnes, City Council position #6
 

Some grist for thought for those who like details:
Some of the recent approvals (from the city staff reports):
 Mountlake Senior Living (that was supposed to be the name of Vineyard Park downtown, but the owners decided to use it differently) 5525 244th St SW Develop a 0.86 acre vacant lot with approximately 96 units of affordable, independent senior housing (55 and older, not state licensed). The proposal also includes garage parking for bicycles and vehicles, pedestrian activity area, shared open space, and landscaping. Request to reduce parking requirements approved. What they don't say, there is only 54 or 55 parking spots for what may be multiple-car tenants in the 96 home building.

 Hall Lake Townhomes 5913 212th Pl SW 8 new townhomes in two, 3 story buildings on a 0.52 acre lot. Existing singular family residential home was demolished.

 Arbor Village 23601 56th Ave W One 5 story mixed use building on a 1.3 acre parcel with about 10,000 sq. ft. commercial space and 123 leased residences, 2 levels of parking garage, interior courtyard, and pedestrian activity areas along 56 & 57th Avenues W and 236th St SW. What is not mentioned is that originally the East side of that lot was to be three story.  And according to their 2009 agreement with you the 123 parking spots should have been 174!  Have you noticed the pinch nearby?

 234th Street Townhomes 5503 234th St SW One mixed use building with about 650 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 1 residential unit above, and 1 building with 6 townhomes, together with parking, landscaping, and pedestrian activity area. Existing single home was demolished. Lot size: 0.26 acre

 Terrace at Park West Townhomes Short Plat 21309 48th Ave W Subdivide one 1.36‐acre multifamily lot into 2 multifamily lots. Proposed Lot 1 will retain the existing Park West condominium complex. Proposed Lot 2 will be developed with a 27‐unit townhouse project, for which land use approval was received on June 5, 2013, and subdivided under a fee simple unit lot subdivision process

  Promenade Living @ Towne Square 23713 56th Ave W Develop a 0.83‐acre lot with a 3‐story, mixed‐use development consisting of 47 multifamily residential units and commercial eating/drinking establishments. The proposal also includes surface and under‐structure parking, shared open space, pedestrian activity area and landscaping. The existing single‐family residential home will be demolished. What they don't say is that the only way to get to the parking is a very narrow lane in the residential neighborhood.

  Andorra Estates 22817 Lakeview Dr Proposal to add 242 new multifamily units to a 14.3‐acre site already developed with 193 multifamily units. 32 of the existing units would be demolished. What they don't say, they granted a reduction of over 150 spaces versus the EXISTING parking code!  From over 700 to in the 500's.

 Kings Gate 24007 56th Ave W Construct a mixed‐use (commercial/residential) project in the Town Center District with 3,475 square feet of commercial space and 46 residential units on a 0.93‐acre site. Includes shared open space, landscaping, and vehicular/bicycle parking, and pedestrian activity area. The existing structures will be demolished. Land use expires January 29, 2015.

  52nd Ave West 21216 52nd Ave W Construct a 63‐unit multi‐household building with under‐structure parking on a 0.94‐acre lot, together with other site improvements. Existing structures will be demolished. Land use approval expires September 5, 2014.  

 Vineyard Park (formerly Mountlake Senior Living) 23008 56th Ave W Construct a 3‐ and 4‐story mixed‐use assisted living community development consisting of 80 housing units and 29‐30 memory care beds, 8,241 sf., commercial space, under‐structure and surface parking consisting of 38 parking spaces (most of which are already used per a downtown resident even though the project is one-third occupied acc to last report), pedestrian activity area, shared open space, and landscaping. All existing structures have been demolished.

[not in their reports]
What hasn't yet been discussed: the affordable housing of the trailer park on 244th (some may not like it but it is a means for the less financially capable to have a home) is within the expansion area of the finalized 2009 boundaries.  The park straddles up to the 2nd street north and is completely within the buildout zone depicted in city reports.

Q & A for MLT News

posted Oct 19, 2015, 10:52 AM by Stephen Barnes   [ updated Oct 19, 2015, 11:14 AM ]

As a followup to the video interview this voting season (click here) and the general statements each of us made, MLT News (mltnews.com)  asked each of us to complete a questionnaire.  Mine follows:

1. What makes you the most qualified of the candidates to serve on the Mountlake Terrace City Council?
 
I am not a career politician and recognize that the vast majority of Terrace citizens are suburbanites who moved here BECAUSE of the suburban life that current Council policies are eroding.  I have a degree in Real Estate and will be able to hit the ground running in regards to most city business.  On Council, I will represent the citizens and vote on behalf of the “suburban majority.”
 
2. If elected, what would be your priorities as a City Councilmember?
 
An election does not stop the pressing flow of matters that the City Council faces.  My top priority is getting more information to the citizens so they can feel ownership in the governance of our great city.  From their input I will be able to represent them on issues as they come before the Council.  I am for a careful-citizen approach to the issues we face, so we can craft a bright future together. I am for an affordable City Hall budget that citizens can back fully, repair of facilities that have not been addressed, such as the Pavilion, and continuing the great services of our City, waste management, fire and police departments.
 
3. The voters have turned down funding for a new City Hall a number of times. Should the voters be given another option to fund a new City Hall or should the City consider alternative plans/funding options?
 
My video interview on MLT News addresses this issue in more detail, but, if the City goes with a simplified plan which conforms to the costs of northwest construction (not twice the NW Index as has been the case in the past), I would be in favor of it.  If it does not, renting is not a horrible or expensive alternative given the $750,000 dollar investment the current leasing firm agreed to just to put the existing city hall package together.
 
4. What can the City do to encourage businesses to locate in the City and in particular Town Center?
 
Current parking rules are creating a tremendous obstacle for new businesses desiring to locate in downtown.  We see the effect in the non-leased space in the Arbor Village building.  These regulations should be reversed or alternative parking solutions, such as a central parking garage, found.  Also, we should assign designated City staff to work on attracting specific businesses, as has been done in the past.  That should be done more intensely, maybe in cooperation with a builder who will work with the City to fulfill the small town center dream we all would like.
 
5. Attendance at City Council meetings can be relatively sparse at times. What would you do to increase citizen involvement in government?
 
I am on record as seeking to create a body of active citizens who can be counted on to review and comment on matters before the Council.  Should the voters elect me, I will actively implement that strategy.
 
6. What do you like best about living in Mountlake Terrace?
 
My spouse and I gladly call Mountlake Terrace our home and have for nearly thirty years.  Mountlake Terrace is a wonderful, quiet and safe town that is close to cultural happenings, natural beauty (beach, lake and forest), and diverse social events.  With excellent resources such as the Recreation Pavilion, numerous parks and high quality schools, as well as a responsive police force and cheerful neighbors, it is a place for people and families of all ages to enjoy.

Our dwindling reserve...

posted Sep 17, 2015, 12:01 PM by Stephen Barnes

Lest we forget...

In 2006, when Laura Sonmore had already served five years, we had an overall reserve of TEN MILLION dollars.  Today that overall reserve is around two million (from former City Manager Caulfield's report in August 2012).  

In 2008 the current council's leadership asked consultants to tell them what their full wish list for a civic center would cost.  They were told (the report is still available on the City website) eight to twelve (8-12) million and 18 million at the outside for a lease to own building.  

How did this council respond?  They came to you after many public meetings with a 42 (that's right, forty two) million dollar proposal which they "whittled down" to thirty seven million for the 2010 ballot.  You, reasonably, the voters of Mountlake Terrace, rejected that amount overwhelmingly!

In 2012 they found some space elsewhere to take part of the building's planned occupants and came to you again in Fall of 2012.  Even though the cost was more than two times the average construction costs in the Northwest according to a commercial building index (the planned $1000 per square foot cost versus top end $400 per square foot per commercial building index) you narrowly said no.  When they lost that special ballot, their consultants told them to drop the price five million dollars (again, available still on cityofmlt.com) and talk with your opponents to figure out a compromise.  This council decided to do neither!

In April of 2013 this council (in violation of PDC rules as I understand them, by using the City Newsletter) twice blasted their message loud and clear on your doorstep.  Any changes from the previous offer?  NOT ONE!  I later found out that the 25 million dollar bond DID NOT include parking!  A shy million dollar extra expenditure left out that they "would figure out later."

THIS FALL, November 2015,you will have a new chance at a fresh vote.  This website is not perfect, but it will hopefully grow on you and can give you some perspective on a season of choice you will have again.  As it turns out, Laura's track record is clear.  She votes with the big city within our town mentality.*

Remember me?

posted Aug 28, 2015, 5:52 PM by Stephen Barnes

In 2013 I ran with two other candidates, using this website.  
(Thus there may still be some vestiges of that campaign on it.)  I ran at that time against Doug McCardle.  Please note, I did not consider him a bad person, but he did live in my neighborhood and was running for a second term.

The 2013 election was a thriller.  In the end, if only 130 who voted would have switched their vote, I would now be on the City Council representing you.  So, you the voter have given me hope to run a second time.

Squeezing the Voter: the BAN loan

posted Oct 21, 2013, 2:03 PM by Stephen Barnes   [ updated Oct 21, 2013, 2:19 PM ]

If you want bigger and better toys or you want to push people into a corner, you just go out and get it.  If the other folks don't like it, there is always an election.  PRECISELY!  This November you can say NO loud and clear!

When the current council wanted to live in style* in the interim while getting you to pay twice as much as the prevailing rate for construction of a new civic center**, they did what is called in sales lingo an assumptive close: they assumed you would want so badly to get a shiny new city hall/civic center you would willingly overpay to get it done now.  That is why they called it a Bond Anticipation Note (BAN).  They anticipated you would pass a thirty seven million dollar bond like sheep.  But you weren't quite as willing as they had hoped.

Even though their lease deal included seven months of free rent (so they really didn't pay anything for the first half year plus), the 2.2 million dollars they borrowed on an expensive line of credit*** was still fully drawn down except for 600,000 dollars.  That means, despite reporting that they drew on some ongoing one-time funds to pay part of the rent, the current council has STILL left you on the hook for most of the rent for the fancy facility they have borrowed at your expense.

That 1.6 million they say will be spent by the end of this year is of course more than that after we pay for it over the planned next seven years.  Interest will add almost enough to equal one year's rent at the current facility over the full term!  So we pay (actually DON'T PAY) for five years and add another year in cost because we chose one of the most expensive rental buildings in Mountlake Terrace.  How is that good stewardship?

*See my notes on "Why the current council likes the term 'Interim'"
**See my notes on the "Home" page near the bottom on what is possible versus what they wanted you to pay in Fall of 2012 and Spring of 2013.
***My brother, a City Councilor in Maple Valley, reported that South King County cities were getting loans near 1% at a time when we took a short-term 4% loan.

Join Our Effort: VOTE for the Challengers and TELL your friends!

posted Oct 19, 2013, 2:01 PM by Stephen Barnes


Why You Should Join Our Effort

When we moved to Mountlake Terrace more than two decades ago, it was known as a sleepy, but safe town.  We enjoyed walks in the many parks of our city and benefited from the low key style of its citizens.  This was gentle suburbia.

EdmondsRealty pic of Lake Ballinger

The exorbitantly priced Civic Center isn't the only city council initiative which is out of step with the community the current council serves.

For at least seven years, the City Council under Mayor Jerry Smith and other long term members, have agitated relentlessly for a more densely populated City with lower on-site parking requirements.  That may all serve a larger regional purpose, but is that what you want?  Do you want mid-rise shadows encroaching on your neighborhood? Have you seen how massive that new Arbor Village development is up close?  [Update: as I have addressed items in this news article, it is interesting to see the city has taken action.  Now the city is redrawing the East/West lanes to reduce the westbound lane widths to provide a better turn path eastbound.  The developer has now put in larger trees.  The parking is still minimal. ]
 

Much more of that is the current City Council's vision for what is now a much expanded downtown.   With the current effort of the Council to pass an extension in the Core of future heights up to FIVE stories North of 236th and FOUR stories right across from single and two story homes on 237th, their vision is coming to YOUR neighborhood and likely many more.  (See Code revision passed just May 6, 2013 for details.)  Is that what you want?

I didn't think so.  And that is why you have an historic opportunity to vote out part of the Council this November.  I urge you to consider the three Challengers found on these pages (including myself). I urge you to tell others about our efforts to return City Hall to the citizens.  I urge you to give voice and time and funds to help us return honest, transparent government and frugal spending practices to your Council! 

Stephen Barnes introduces himself in the Herald

posted Sep 26, 2013, 1:15 PM by Stephen Barnes   [ updated Sep 26, 2013, 2:54 PM ]

[Note: The participants were only allowed 200 words... I have added one paragraph in brackets.]

What will you get with Stephen Barnes as your voice at the Terrace City Council?
I will insist on greater openness toward the citizens, honesty in processes and a careful pocketbook attitude! Vote for me, Stephen Barnes, this November!

I know Mountlake Terrace. I understand how to work with others and defend your perspective as a citizen at the same time. For the last 25-plus years my spouse and I have lived here. I also celebrate 30 years of public service at Metro this year and two decades as a worker union representative. Contributing to private and public groups over the years, I am currently serving on two boards. 

What have the current City Council people been doing? Told by their own hired experts they could construct a city hall complex for as little as $8 million, they came to us with a $37 million structure. Soundly defeated at the 2010 polls, they returned with a one floor shorter structure, which you also defeated. Pursuing a dense city-within-our-town idea, huge Arbor Village with five stories and minimal parking is a foretaste of what they want. 

[When the current council wanted to increase the future height North and South of 236th E of the freeway, I spoke out for the owners and renters suggesting they show good faith toward the occupants by NOT increasing the height allowance on the South side of 236th from three stories to four stories.  They didn’t even honor my request with a response.  When I suggested they should at least have notified the current occupants specifically, they said they would be relying on public surveys from 2008. When they surveyed the public sentiment in early 2012, they ignored their own results to pursue the city hall project a second time.]

See www.BetterMLT.com for more details and vote for Stephen Barnes for Position No. 3.

Wanda Clarke-Morin introduces herself in the Herald

posted Sep 24, 2013, 2:45 PM by Stephen Barnes

Wanda Clarke-Morin's City Council Candidate's Statement for the HeraldNet....
[This appeared August 30 on our common facebook page: www.fb.com/aBetterMLTtogether ]

Beyond the primary duties of policymaking, the most important task of a councilperson is being part of a team that provides leadership, direction for our city’s future.

The job requires passion, a willingness to listen and work closely with residents on issues impacting the community, but with the ability to place one’s own personal opinions aside while weighing what is best for the community.

Recent demographics show Mountlake Terrace, for the first time in many years, experiencing a slight population growth. This is good for our community. I support development of pro-growth policies in the context of measured population, and small businesses. Growth increases revenue, providing funds for programs and services our community needs to thrive…However, I, like many of my neighbors, am averse to having my taxes raised, unless I see great community value for the monies I’m asked to commit to. 

I could tout my years as an educator, my past leadership positions in business and organizations, or even my hard-earned advanced degrees as reasons to believe I could make a viable contribution as your City Councilperson. But primarily, as a 13-year resident of Mountlake Terrace, I have raised my two sons in a community that feels safe; my neighbors are like family. I will work to maintain that sense of community I so greatly value. Together, let’s make Mountlake Terrace a vibrant, prosperous community where we are truly proud to live, work, and raise our families.

Len French explains the BAN loan

posted Sep 19, 2013, 8:58 PM by Stephen Barnes

When you want to pay rent, you do it right away.  Not so our City Council.  Len French clues us in to just how bad this move of the current Council is for us as citizens: Len on the BAN loan for city hall rent

A video introduction to Len French, MLT position #6

posted Sep 19, 2013, 6:38 PM by Stephen Barnes   [ updated Sep 19, 2013, 8:44 PM ]

This is a truly short clip from candidate Len French, whose round "Len 4 Council" signs have been popping up around town:

Click here for a two minute chat!Len's Introduction

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