Old business this meeting brought back the potential settlement with Comcast, to recover fees that were not assessed in the past of $87,297.17, as well as the costs for the audit that discovered the issue, $5,310, for a total of $92,607.17. I previously wrote about this here. After a few comments, the Mayor asked if there was a motion, and everyone demurred. This tipped off a conversation about whether a motion was necessary, and the staff suggested that a motion to reject would be appropriate. Such a motion was made, and Council unanimously passed on collecting the $87, 297.17. The costs of the audit will still be pursued.
During the second Audience Communication opportunity, at the end of the meeting, I addressed concerns with three issues: this was the first. I found the lack of discussion to be jarring, as though I had missed something between one meeting and the other. If all, or even some, of the council members had taken a moment to explain their vote, it would have seemed more transparent. Particularly, in a case where the decision is contrary to the staff’s recommendation, it seems appropriate to state what policy is guiding the vote.
The first item of New Business, the second item of my concern, was the Snohomish County Housing Task-force. Dave Somers, Snohomish County Executive, reached out to all Snohomish city managers and mayors on May 1st, about the creation of a task-force modeled on the one formed to address the opioid crisis. The first two paragraphs from that invitation:
Affordable housing is an issue that is hitting our region particularly hard. With one of the hottest housing markets in the country, the Puget Sound region is growing increasingly affordable for some residents, and home ownership is becoming less attainable for the middle class.
I believe that a coordinated response to this challenge is our best step forward. Cities, tribes, and the county, together with other governments, private sector firms and non-profit agencies, need to determine what we are each willing and able to do and then act accordingly. To identify solutions, I am establishing the Snohomish County Housing Task Force. The Task Force will consist of a team of City, Tribal, and county officials, supported by other community leaders. The focus of our work will be on middle-income and affordable housing, subsidized housing, alternative housing models, and land use and redevelopment.
Given the strong variety of feelings Mill Creek citizens have expressed about the affordable housing apartments proposed at The Farm, as well as concerns with homelessness, this is clearly a very important issue. In fact, the Mill Creek Police Department has a page specifically dedicated to their mission’s interaction with housing matters. [link] Unfortunately, no one from the city had been assigned as of Tuesday for the first meeting on Friday.
It’s important to note that May 1st was less than a week before Michael Ciaravino took over as City Manager, which is obviously a time at which things were more than usually at risk of slipping through the cracks. However, we need to take the opportunity to set a clear city policy to proactively explore solutions to housing issues that are positive for Mill Creek. I appreciate that Mike Todd and Brian Holzclaw have stepped up to make sure that we have representation, despite the late date.
The next agenda item was an Ordinance Adopting Proposed Mill Creek Municipal Code Amendments Regulating Wireless Communication Facilities. Tom Rogers, Planning Manager, introduced Elana Zana, Attorney with Ogden Murphy Wallace P.L.L.C., who works with multiple municipalities on these developments, to give a PowerPoint presentation on “small wireless facilities.” These are cell phone towers roughly a third the size of macro cell towers, which are currently common. The development in technology has been mandated by the FCC, in preparation for 5G technology.
Details about the technology, and the proposed relevant ordinances, can be found in the photographs of the printouts of the PDF I include at the end of the post, and here .
Of an extensive, thoughtful discussion, one element bothered me. The question arose as to why there is no public notice requirement for phone carriers who will install the small wireless facilities. Tom Rogers acknowledged that the most likely source of complaints will be the electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation. Ms. Zana explained that, given the FCC requirements, notice would give citizens the false impression that their input would have an impact on the outcome. Councilmembers responded with a concern that, if there was no notice, citizens would complain to them, so they looked for ways to include something.
This willingness to impose a performative burden on companies wanting to do business in Mill Creek frustrates me. Yes, it is important to safeguard the quality of our community. We should also value the most responsible amount of freedom for all stakeholders, as much as we value the tax revenue businesses can generate. At what point do we get a reputation for being difficult to deal with, limiting our future options and prosperity?