City of Kent backs off Mill Creek, Kentridge parking restrictions

Leaders say defeat of police measure one reason for decision

Drivers who commute by Sounder train fill up streets by parking in the Mill Creek neighborhood. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter

Drivers who commute by Sounder train fill up streets by parking in the Mill Creek neighborhood. FILE PHOTO, Kent Reporter

The Kent City Council on Tuesday night won’t be considering new residential parking zones in Mill Creek and Kentridge neighborhoods after all – in part because voters defeated a measure to hire more police officers.

City staff and leaders pulled the ordinance from the May 15 council agenda because of “two significant events,” according to the council’s Public Works Committee documents.

Public Works staff named the defeat of Proposition A (57-43 percent) on April 24 as the first event. The measure would have increased utility taxes to 8 percent from 6 percent to hire 23 more police officers.

“Proposition A did not move forward creating difficulty with the ability to move forward with new initiatives that require police enforcement,” according to a May 7 document from city staff to the council committee. “Public Works, Police and the Mayor’s Office will need to determine the effect of these new no parking zones on police enforcement.”

The second event revolves around King County traffic officials who recently sent documents to Kent about no parking ordinances adopted by the county before the Panther Lake area annexed to the city in 2010. City staff will need to determine whether the county measures carry over to Kent.

On April 16, the council’s Public Works Committee recommended that the full council approve the residential parking zones on May 15. Residents requested that the city restrict Sounder train commuters and Kentridge High students who park on neighborhood streets because of full parking lots at the school, 12430 SE 208th St.

The removal of the ordinance from the council agenda didn’t go over well with residents who support the parking restrictions.

“I am real disappointed,” said Jim McHugh, a 35-year Mill Creek neighborhood resident who helped lead the drive to get parking by permit only. “I went to Costco at 10 this morning (Wednesday), came back at 11:30 and lost my parking spot. It is getting worse almost every week.”

The Mill Creek area sits just east of the Sounder train. Drivers park in the neighborhood because the Sounder Kent Station garage fills up early in the morning. McHugh claims people also park in the neighborhood to get a quicker start home on their evening commute east of the train station.

City staff plans to return to the Public Works Committee with more information at a date yet to be determined. Kent mailed about 800 notices to residents in the Mill Creek and Kentridge neighborhoods to let them know about the May 15 vote. The neighborhoods near Kentridge include Glencarin Division I, Shadow Run and Jason Lane. The neighborhoods of Laurel Springs, Ceder Point and Shadowbrook also were part of the ordinance because of their narrow streets.

If the county signs already posted are still good in the Kentridge area, it could save the city about $45,000 from removing old signs and posting new ones.

“We were going to establish our own zone, but the county ordinance might be enforceable,” said Councilman Dennis Higgins at the May 7 meeting.

City staff is looking into possibly using electronic scanners to enforce no parking in Mill Creek as a way to make it more economical for police to patrol the area, Public Works Director Tim LaPorte told the committee.

Higgins asked LaPorte what happens if that plan doesn’t pan out.

“We go back to this committee and Public Safety (Committee) because we are asking police to do more than they have the resources for,” LaPorte said. “We

discusssed it with Council President Bill Boyce and Mayor (Dana) Ralph and tabled it for the moment.”

LaPorte said then-Police Chief Ken Thomas remained optimistic the parking ordinance could move forward. Ralph has since replaced Thomas as chief with Assistant Chief Rafael Padilla.

“For Kentridge, we may have a solution to keep the current county ordinance and reuse their signs to save $45,000,” Higgins said. “For Mill Creek, we don’t have the ability to enforce the zone but we are looking at options.”

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