Attend Planning Meeting Thursday Jan 12

Dear Finn Hill neighbors, UPDATE The Planning Department has just posted its report to the Planning Commission on zoning issues that will be discussed Thursday evening at City Hall. You can read the report here – and read (or reread) my earlier note, below, about the meeting and the neighborhood plan process. It would be great to hear any reactions you have to the staff memo. I and other FHNA board members will do our best to wade through it and we’ll you email with our observations in the next day or two. Again, we hope to see you at the Planning Commission on Thursday!

Happy New Year, everyone. It’s beginning with a bang. I’m writing to update you on the Finn Hill neighborhood plan and to urge your attendance at an important Planning Commission meeting this Thursday evening – 7pm on January 12.  The Planning Commissioners and the Planning Department will discuss rezoning several portions of Finn Hill – the neighborhood’s two commercial areas, residential areas around Carl Sandburg Elementary, a parcel along Simonds Road, and several pockets of higher density zoning in the southern end of the hill. The meeting will be held at the Kirkland City Hall Council Chambers, 123 Fifth Avenue. See meeting details below. The Planning  commission meeting packet regarding the Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan is posted to the City web page.

Worried about more development and more traffic? Eager for more parks? Hoping for better commercial amenities? Thursday’s meeting is an opportunity for you to speak to City officials about land use decisions that affect your neighborhood. It’s an opportunity for you to hear what issues are important to City officials. And it’s an opportunity to show the City that you and your neighbors care about how Finn Hill will evolve in the coming decades.Listening Session picture3

Finn Hill neighborhood plan – where we’ve been and what’s happening now: Since late 2015, the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance (FHNA) has collaborated with the City of Kirkland and its consultant, Green Futures Lab, on the development of a Finn Hill neighborhood plan . Many of you participated in community meetings covering a variety of issues: residential and commercial zoning, transit, traffic, bikeways and pedestrian pathways, parks and open space. The Green Futures Lab has assembled the community’s input in a draft neighborhood plan that you can read here. In the coming weeks, FHNA will reach out to you for comments on the draft plan, so that we can provide recommended edits to the City. Stay tuned for additional emails and web posts about the plan.

At the same time, the Planning Department is moving ahead with several land use study projects that may result in zoning changes in several parts of Finn Hill. One of these projects concerns the Holmes Point Overlay ordinance – an ordinance that provides special protection to trees on the western side of Juanita Drive. The ordinance is codified in Chapter 70 of the Kirkland Zoning Code. New construction in the Holmes Point area is testing whether the ordinance really can preserve Finn Hill’s tree canopy. We’re looking at revisions to make the ordinance more effective. FHNA will offer some ideas later this month via email and web posts. We hope you’ll send us your reactions.

Other land use projects that have spun out of the neighborhood planning process involve potential rezones to several parts of our neighborhood. We understand that these will be the focus on the Planning Commission’s meeting on Thursday night.

January 12 Planning Commission meeting
The Planning Commission will discuss three types of zoning decisions at meeting this week. The Planning Commission meeting packet regarding Finn Hill is available.
  • First, it will look at ideas to promote upgrades to Finn Hill’s two commercial zones – the Inglewood Shopping Center (aka QFC) and the retail business strip at Juanita Drive and 122nd (aka Plaza Garcia/Village Mart/Shell).
  • Second, the Commission will discuss possible downzones of residential areas that have been zoned for 8 homes per acre (e.g., the new development on Juanita Drive north of the Shell station).
  • And, third, it will review suggestions to increase housing density in areas now zoned for 4 units per acre (a) along Simonds Road, (b) between O.O. Denny Park and Juanita Drive, and (c) to the north and east of Carl Sandburg Elementary.

All of these land use study areas were mapped in a mailer the City sent out last month. If you missed it, you can find the map as well as a summary of the zoning options on the City of Kirkland’s Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan web page.

Even if you don’t live in one of the areas that will be the focus of Thursday’s meeting, you’ll be affected by the zoning in those neighborhoods. Thursday’s meeting won’t be your last chance to comment on these zoning recommendations. But it is a significant milestone in the process. The Planning Commissioners’ views will influence how the City’s Planning Department proceeds. It’s important that the commissioners see Finn Hill neighbors in the audience and hear from us about what we think makes Finn Hill special.

You are encouraged to make remarks at the beginning of the meeting. If you want to do so, I suggest that you contact me in advance, so that we can organize comments (not to eliminate differences in viewpoint but to minimize duplicative statements). I can be reached at scott@finnhillalliance.org and at 206-972-9493.

If you can’t attend the meeting but want to make a comment or present some questions to the Planning Commission, you can send an email to Janice Coogan, the City’s Project Planner for the Finn Hill plan, at jcoogan@kirklandwa.gov. But we hope you’ll come down to City Hall on Thursday in person. We have the privilege to shape the destiny of where we live. Let’s take advantage of it.

Scott Morris, President
Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance

P.O. Box 682, Kirkland WA 98083
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