Finn Hill Neighborhood Plan: Council action on Tuesday, January 16 – Please show your support!

 

Dear Finn Hill neighbors, The next few days will be busy ones – a work party in Big Finn Hill Park on Martin Luther King Day, a City Council meeting on Tuesday, and our annual members’ meeting on Wednesday.

We’ll send out a note tomorrow concerning the work party and the annual members meeting, but this message focuses on the City Council meeting and asks that you send a quick email to Council members in support of the Finn Hill neighborhood plan this weekend.

 

UPDATE:  Attached is a letter in PDF from the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance (FHNA) to Kirkland City Council supporting the adoption on Tuesday of the Finn Hill neighborhood plan and the associated zoning revisions for parts of Holmes Point and for the Finn Hill Neighborhood Center.

Quick Overview

On Tuesday night, the Council will act to adopt the neighborhood plan, which many of you have helped to shape during several community meetings over the past 2 years. The City staff memo to the Council regarding the plan came out Friday afternoon; you can read it, along with the plan itself, here.

The Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance endorses the plan and – and if you like it, too – we encourage you to write a note of support to the Council members. It would be most helpful to send a message today or tomorrow, so that Council members will have time to read it before their meeting on Tuesday. Email addresses appear at the bottom of this message.

FHNA is asking the Council to adopt the plan, including proposed downzones (lower housing density) in the Holmes Point area, with immediate effect. We hope you will mention this point in your messages. FHNA believes it would be unfortunate if the plan were adopted but residential downzones were delayed; the result could be an acceleration of plans to develop higher density housing in Holmes Point area, threatening the tree canopy and increasing the risk of mudslides and erosion.

The Plan and Zoning Changes

The plan is lengthy, but its key points are captured well in the Vision Statement that appears at the beginning of the document. In brief, the vision emphasizes:

  • Maintaining the neighborhood’s low density residential character
  • Maintaining its forest canopy and enhancing protection of its natural environmental features
  • Improving connectivity (pedestrian, bicycle, and transit)
  • Creating a greenway that encircles the neighborhood (the “Green Loop”)
  • Enhancing the development of Finn Hill’s principal commercial area

These goals important because they drive long-term land use planning for Finn Hill. The neighborhood plan’s chapters on land use, parks, transportation, etc., are designed to provide specific actions or objectives consistent with the Vision Statement.

In conjunction with approving the plan, the Council will be asked to make two significant zoning decisions.

  • Holmes Point zoning: The first decision is the adoption of an ordinance that downzones portions of the Holmes Point neighborhood from RSA 6 (6 homes per acre) to RSA 4 (4 homes per acre). The downzone has been advocated by FHNA and Holmes Point neighbors and has been supported by City staff and the Planning Commission as an important part of protecting the tree canopy in Holmes Point. Preserving trees on the hillsides and in the ravines of that area is vital not only to maintaining the area’s character but also to combatting slides and erosion into creeks and Lake Washington. As noted above, FHNA’s position is that this reduction in housing density should be implemented now.
  • Finn Hill neighborhood center zoning: The second major zoning change that the Council will address is an ordinance that will enable the Inglewood shopping center (aka the QFC) to become the Finn Hill neighborhood center, with more commercial amenities combined with multi-family housing. This is important for several reasons: more stores and restaurants will relieve us from having to drive out of Finn Hill to shop; multi-family housing will enhance the availability of affordable housing and seniors’ housing on Finn Hill; and more density in one location will help Finn Hill attract better public transit services – which will benefit all of us.

Items to be addressed in the future

Several important issues are outlined in the plan but will be finalized separately in the months (and years) to come:

  • Holmes Point Overlay ordinance: this is the tree preservation ordinance that the County adopted about two decades ago for the Finn Hill area. FHNA members are working with City staff to revise the regulation so that it will help Holmes Point preserve and even increase its tree canopy while giving homeowners more latitude to remove trees or thin stands on their properties. The staff is now working on code language that incorporates principles agreed with FHNA members. A proposal should go to the Planning Commission in late winter or early spring.
  • Street connections: City staff is digesting the feedback it received from many of you regarding proposed vehicular and pedestrian street connections on Finn Hill. In the next few months, the staff will advance a recommendation to the Council for a process to gather public input on street connections. We’ll let you know when that recommendation is made.
  • Holmes Point Drive and 131st (Goodwill hill): The City wants input from residents who use Holmes Point Drive and 131st about how to improve (or not improve) those streets. Again, we’ll tell you when the City is ready to solicit your ideas.
  • Finn Hill street standards: City staff are also interested in engaging with the community on whether its street standards make sense for all portions of the neighborhood. Stay tuned for updates.
  • Green Loop: One of the neighborhood plan’s long term goals is to create a greenway – a trail through woodlands – that encircles our hill and knits the parks on the west side of the hill to the wooded areas that run along the Finn Hill’s eastern flank. This may take decades to complete, but we are making significant progress right now. FHNA is working with the City to buy property that will expand Juanita Heights Park atop Goat Hill in the next few months. We’ll keep looking for land acquisition opportunities and open space easement arrangements to extend green spaces around the hill.

How you can help

It’s easy to make your voice heard:

  • Come to the Council meeting and show support for the neighborhood plan. The Council meets on Tuesday, January 16, at 7:30pm at City Hall, 123 Fifth Avenue in downtown Kirkland. You can read the agenda here. You will have the chance to comment on the neighborhood plan if you sign up to speak at the beginning of the meeting. Please note, however, the Council may limit the number of speakers in favor of the plan (or against it) so that the Council will have time to cover the rest of its agenda.
  • Write to your council members! As mentioned previously, we encourage you to write a simple email to Council members saying that you are a Finn Hill resident, that you support the adoption of the neighborhood plan and that you would like to see the Holmes Point zoning changes implemented promptly. And it would very nice to thank the City Planning Department and the Planning Commissioners for the extensive time they have committed to preparing and reviewing this plan. Finn Hill residents put in exceptional effort on this project, but it would not have gone anywhere without the support of the City.
  • Please try to send your note today or tomorrow so that Council members will have a chance to read it before their Tuesday meeting.
  • You can send one email to the City Council’s group email address. Because City Hall will be closed on Monday, however, it will be more effective to write one email whose address line includes each council member’s address. Here are those addresses: awalen@kirklandwa.gov; jarnold@kirklandwa.gov; dasher@kirklandwa.gov; psweet@kirklandwa.gov; tnixon@kirklandwa.gov; jpascal@kirklandwa.gov; tneir@kirklandwa.gov.

Thanks for taking time to read this long message. We hope to see you at the FHNA annual members’ meeting on Wednesday, January 17 – when we can tell you what action the Council took on the neighborhood plan on Tuesday.

Scott Morris
President, Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance

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