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Kent City Council committee leaves North Park out of downtown rezone plan
A Kent City Council committee agreed with residents that the city's proposed downtown development plan should leave North Park alone.
Three North Park residents asked the city's Economic and Community Development Committee on Oct. 14 to follow the recommendation by the city's Land Use and Planning Board to keep a half block north of James Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, south of Cloudy Street, zoned for townhouses and condos rather than changing it to commercial use.
City staff had recommended a rezone to commercial as part of an overall Downtown Subarea Action Plan designed to revitalize downtown over the next 10 to 20 years.
"We just want to make sure that what comes out of this committee's recommendation follows through with the Land Use and Planning Board recommendation to leave our neighborhood alone," said Bruce Malcolm, a 23-year resident of the area, at the meeting. "We don't need a 65-foot tall building at the corner of our neighborhood."
The committee voted 2-0 to approve the downtown plan recommended by the Land Use and Planning Board. Councilwoman Jamie Perry and Councilman Bill Boyce approved the plan. Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger did not attend the meeting.
The downtown plan is scheduled to go to the full council for approval on Nov. 19.
"This is how the process is supposed to work," Perry said prior to the vote. "We get recommendations from expert staff members, the community is supposed to have input and ultimately the Council is responsible for making sure the proper decisions get made. Everyone appearing at the Land Use and Planning Board and putting in their input that's exactly what's supposed to happen. I really appreciate you guys taking the time to do that."
City staff expected a developer might want to build on the half block if able to buy up all dozen or so properties because the land is so close to the city-owned ShoWare Center that hosts Seattle Thunderbirds hockey games, concerts and many other events.
Councilman Les Thomas suggested at a September council workshop that a Burger King might be a good addition to the North Park property. That comment didn't sit well with North Park residents.
"I feel very strongly the half block I live on should remain zoned as is and not changed to commercial," said Susan Stoddard, who has lived in North Park for 12 years. "There's no developer on board to do anything with the property. The only thing I heard is maybe a Burger King would be good on the corner. I don't see it worth doing that."
North Park residents said they have cleaned up the neighborhood and children can now use a local park. They said it's not an affluent neighborhood but people talk to each other, get along and like that it's affordable.
"We've spent a tremendous amount of emotional energy cleaning up our neighborhood getting rid of the prostitution houses, the drug houses and the graffiti that's along the railroad tracks and underneath Highway 167," Malcolm said.
Tina Budell, president of the North Park Neighborhood Council, called the area a "modern day Mayberry," in reference to the neighborly setting of two television sitcoms from the 1960s.
"We want to keep our neighborhood a neighborhood," Budell said. "There's plenty of open space in the downtown corridor. Meeker Street needs a facelift. Work on the areas that are an eyesore and can bring in money."
Much of the focus of the new plan is to increase residential housing downtown and bring in more retail businesses, even to allow developers to build as high as five stories or 65 feet.
"Take care of what you have in the old downtown district and everything south of James Street," Malcolm said. "Quit encroaching farther and farther north into our neighborhoods."
Staff and council are updating a 2005 downtown plan that already accomplished goals such as the development of the Kent Station shopping mall and Town Square Plaza park.