Category Archives: Mill Creek City Council Meetings

My thoughts on Mill Creek City Council meetings.

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 4/9/19

There were five major topics touched on in this agenda: A settlement agreement with Comcast; the City Manager’s purchasing authority; replacing the City’s bucket truck; a consultant contract; and a brainstorming session about what to do with a piece of city-owned property.

From 2011 to 2017, Comcast failed to collect franchise fees owed to the City on various billing items. Peggy Lauerman, Director of Finance & Administration, explained. Comcast has been found to owe $92,607.17 in underpayment, and $5,000 towards the audit that revealed the discrepancy. The contract between Comcast and the City stipulates that the company may pass along those costs to their current subscribers, at up to 6.99% of charges. The staff’s recommendation was to accept the settlement agreement for the full amount owed.

Council Members were surprisingly reluctant to allow a corporation to pay a $100k debt, but the objections were rooted in a sense of fair play, and other important Mill Creek values. Of universal, major concern, the passing along of the costs to current customers, who may not have been paying bills at the time the undercharges occured. The second objection, first raised by Councilmember Cavaleri, was that accepting the settlement would lead to an outcome very similar to a utility tax, notoriously unwanted by Mill Creek citizens. Eventually, the matter was tabled for further reflection.

The acting City Manager, Bob Stowe, brought up increasing the CM’s purchasing authority, the amount they can approve without a Council vote, from $50,000 to $100,000. The council expressed that, despite their trust in Mr.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 4/9/19”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 4/2/19

Following the preliminary opening of the meeting, the Council recessed to executive session “[t]o evaluate the qualifications of an applicant for public employment pursuant to RCW 42.30.110(1)(g).” While the meeting regulars took the opportunity to visit with each other, councilmembers spent over an hour coming to a decision about our new City Manager.

Having previously been told that the announcement would not be made until a contract was accepted, I was thrilled when the public part of the meeting reconvened, and the councilors gave their opinions of the candidates. While everyone was impressed with all of the candidates, two clear favorites emerged: Michael Ciaravino and Shayne Scott. These were also the candidates I prefered, so I crossed my fingers for my top pick – and he was unanimously selected! Mr. Ciaravino is a great fit for Mill Creek, and I’m looking forward to the time when he can get to work. [Update – on April 23rd, the Council unanimously approved the employment contract, which begins on May 6th.]

The other major piece of business was taking stock of the City’s response to February’s major snow storms, which dumped the most snow within a month that Washington has seen in 50 years. Gina Hortillosa, Director of Public Works & Development Services, created an outstanding PowerPoint presentation that discussed the challenges, and moments of excellence, that occured.

One big issue with response is that every piece of relevant equipment is at least 17 years old. As a result, both the sander and the snow plow, the type attached to the front of a track, broke down.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 4/2/19”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 3/26/19, Part 2

After the Public Hearing was closed, Mark Bond spoke first, expressing appreciation to speakers. He pointed out that the project is in keeping with the intentions of EGUV, and that Council is obligated to follow through on those intentions. He was of mixed feelings about concerns that the affordability of the apartments would create problems, acknowledging that there have been problems with Heatherwood. However, he also spoke about how good people sometimes fail to thrive, and deserve housing. In conclusion, he said “I think we can handle this, and I think we will find more good than bad.” To me, his final opinion, as a law enforcement officer, is very persuasive.

John Steckler had questions about easements to build Spine Road, and was told that the developers are happy to participate in acquiring those. He wanted to clarify the difference between Section 8, a government program, and workforce housing, designated by developers for people of modest, but not low, income, up to $62k for a small family. After asking for a comparison to Heatherwood, the developer reported that property has apartments designated for people at 30 and 50 percent of median income. Another distinction made is that, crime rates are reduced by the mixed use property, because of the constant activity.

Newest Councilmember Stephanie Viogal spoke about the concern for already overcrowded schools, as well as the variance that proposes build with such a small wetlands buffer. She also expressed preference for an agreement of 80% native cover in the mitigation site, which matched the developer’s intention, and can be writing into the binding site plan.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 3/26/19, Part 2”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 3/26/19, Part 1

The majority of this meeting was devoted to a Public Hearing and vote on the Development Agreement between The Farm by Vintage, LP at Mill Creek and the City of Mill Creek. It was a doozy!

As with other reports on meetings focusing on the Farm, it is only possible to convey a small portion of the complexity of the issue. The agenda and council packet runs 237 pages, and the presentation, comments, and discussion took over two hours. The Key Facts and Information Summary is a very useful overview, at only three pages.

Senior planner Christi Amrine kicked things off, setting the groundwork by going over this information that had been presented in the summary:

In March 2018, the City received a development application for The Farm at Mill Creek, which is located in the City’s East Gateway Urban Village (EGUV) zone. The application was deemed complete on April 13, 2018. One of the requirements of developing in the EGUV zone district is to enter into a development agreement with the City. In accordance with State law (RCW 36.70B.200), a public hearing must be held on a development agreement prior to the City Council taking action on the development agreement.

The City Council has held three study sessions on various elements of the development proposal and the proposed Development Agreement (February 19″‘,26″‘and March 12, 2019). At the February 26, 2019 study session the City Council set March 26″‘for the public hearing date for the Development Agreement.

Development agreements increase certainty and reduce risk for both the developer and the City by addressing issues of interest to the City and the developer that are not specifically addressed in the code.Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 3/26/19, Part 1”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 3/12/19

The meeting got started with Audience Communication, where Wil Nelson addressed the Council in opposition to The Farm. This was followed by the heart-warming presentation of a ceremonial plank from the USS Ralph Johnson. Several members of the Navy came to make the presentation, as part of a community outreach program where a ship develops connections to local organizations. The mayor read a related proclamation affirming the bonds and declaring the sailors of the USS Ralph Johnson honorary members of the Mill Creek community.

Brook Knight, CEO of the Northshore Senior Center, made a presentation generally describing the services they offer. With locations in Bothell, Mill Creek, and Kenmore, Northshore is one of the largest and most respected senior centers in the country. The center’s primary values are to be welcoming, holistic, collaborative, and impactful. Employees and around 500 volunteers offers many classes and other services to seniors, disabled people and caregivers.

These services are important due to the damages to seniors, 28% of whom live alone, of social isolation. Activities help promote cognitive abilities, mental and physical health. Another important service is helping the 60% of seniors who are low income manage financial difficulties, including with rent, food, equipment and accessing public services.

Goals for 2019 and beyond include increasing transportation assistance, additional clinical services, as well as expanded classes, outreach and community partnerships.

In New Business, Peggy Lauerman, Director of Finance & Administration, presented a motion that will make it possible for the City to pay for surface water expenses, and reimburse itself with future tax-exempt bonds.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 3/12/19”

Mill Creek City Council Meetings 2/26 & 3/5/19

I missed my first meeting of the year while I was out of town, and the second (of two) when recovering from the cold I caught while out of town. I do have one comment, based on the February agenda packet, however.

I notice that there was an extensive presentation on the Development Agreement for the Farm on February 26th. In a later post, on the March 26th meeting, several of the councilmembers expressed feeling like they hadn’t had enough time to consider the agreement, they were bullied, or railroaded. While there were last minute changes when the Agreement was presented in March, it seems disingenuous to suggest that this month wasn’t sufficient time to deal with concerns earlier than the meeting where the Development Agreement was narrowly approved, despite a legal mandate to do so.

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 2/19/19

The majority of this meeting was occupied with a study session on the East Gateway Urban Village (EGUV) and the Farm at Mill Creek. A lot can be learned directly about the presentation by looking at the accompanying materials to the agenda, from pages 5 to 49.

Quoting from the city manager’s summary:

In March 2018, the City received a development application for The Farm at Mill Creek, which is located at 4008 132″“Street SE in the City’s East Gateway Urban Village (EGUV) zone. On April 13, 2018 the binding site plan application was deemed complete. One of the requirements of developing in the EGUV zone district is for the developer to enter into a Development Agreement (DA) with the City and have the DA approved by the City Council, per MCMC 17.19 and RCW 36.7OB.l70.

The purpose of this City Council study session is to provide background information on the following:

  1. The East Gateway Urban Village;
  2. Binding Site Plan Review Process and Proportional Impact Mitigation Assessment Process;
  3. The Farm at Mill Creek Review Status; and,
  4. Introduce the developer and allow him to share his vision of the project with the Council prior to the Council conducting a future study session to review the proposed DA.

To understand The Farm project, one must first understand the East Gateway Urban Village (EGUV) ordinances adopted in 2008. These ordinances created a district “intended to accommodate pedestrian-oriented mixed-use commercial, office, residential and public uses that conform to the design and layout of an approved detailed master development plan “ They incorporate by reference the Mill Creek Comprehensive Plan, which establishes policies for development beginning on page 51.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 2/19/19”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 2/5/19

The February 5th City Council meeting was devoted entirely to filling the vacancy created by Jared Mead’s election to the Washington State House of Representatives. John Steckler was unavoidably absent, and candidates were evaluated by Councilmembers Bond, Cavaleri, Pruit, Holtzclaw, and Todd.

You can read my letter of application here, and you can listen to the interview here, beginning at 58:28.

I was selected as a finalist along with Stephanie Vignel, who was then appointed in a 3-2 vote.

Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 1/22/19

Mayor Pruitt began the Audience Communication portion of the meeting by noting that The Farm development project was not on the agenda for the night. Six members of the audience took the time to communicate with the Council, speaking to the condition of a city-owned fence in disrepair, perspective on The Farm, the demographic composition of the Council, and potential participation in the Adopt-a-ship program.

Next, the Snohomish Health District made a presentation on their current status, goals, and activities. First, they offered a list of several areas that are being improved as part of a renovation to the department’s infrastructure, including online services, records system improvements, fleet management, and addressing issues with the Rucker Building. One of the biggest challenges to the county’s health and safety is the opioid epidemic, which is being countered with both preventative and treatment measures. In summary, they hope for an effective and mutually supportive relationship with Mill Creek.

Next, there was a public hearing on the Vintage Development Agreement Amendment. Essentially, this was a retroactive formality, required by state law, related to 500 of sq. ft. of space that was given to the City as part of the agreements with the developers of The Vintage. Originally, the space was intended for a satellite police office, including for use by the Citizens Patrol. However, it was then given over to the Senior Center, as the city had promised them sufficient space for all of their programming, but provided too little square footage. While members of the Council explored options with questions, answers from the City Attorney and acting City Manager made it clear that there was no real choice but to approve the amendment, as the Senior Center is already in control of the space, and only the developer would have the option of evicting them.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting, 1/22/19”

Mill Creek City Council Meeting 1/8/19

I really enjoy a good Council meeting, more than is usually considered reasonable for that kind of thing. This year, I’d like to write up my take on each meeting, and share them here. These write-ups aren’t necessarily intended to be a blow-by-blow account of everything that happened, just my thoughts on things that stood out to me. For full accounts, you can find agendas, minutes and audio recordings here.

Terry Ryan, Mill Creek resident and member of the Snohomish County Council, brought a check from the county for a much appreciated 100k, to contribute to the building of Exploration Park. Appointments to the Art and Beautification Board were followed by a discussion of the Council’s committee assignments.

This conversation/friendly negotiation showed two things very clearly: First, Mike Todd is willing to take on a remarkable amount of work on the City’s behalf. Not to downplay the hard work done by each member, but, from the outside, Councilmember Todd stands out in this regard. Second, it is important, if possible, to appoint someone to the current vacancy who is available on weekdays. Based on the conversation that was had, the jobs and commitments of the current members have begun to make it difficult to cover events at those times.

The most complicated committee staffing decision was for the new LEOFF (Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters Disability) Board. State law requires the formation of these boards by cities that have surpassed 20,000 in population. Previously, attempts have been made to meet this responsibility by joining with another entity’s already established board, but they didn’t pan out.… Read More “Mill Creek City Council Meeting 1/8/19”