- About Us
Q&A with Kenmore City Council candidate Allan Van Ness | Vote 2013
The Kenmore Reporter newspaper conducted a Q&A with all the city council candidates for a story that ran in the newspaper published July 19. Here is the Q&A with Allan Van Ness in its entirety:
What do you see as the top three issues facing the city of Kenmore?
The following are my priorities for the city of Kenmore:
1. Business/economic development and growth.
2. Transportation: road maintenance, sidewalks and State Route 522 completion.
3. Environment: air and water quality, wetland habitat restoration and environmental education.
How do you feel the city handled the acquisition and sale of the Kenmore Village property and what more should be done moving forward?
First a bit of history: The city purchased the Kenmore Village site before I joined the Council. I opposed it then and continue to feel that the city should not be in the real estate/landlord business.
I understood the motivation to own the property in order to guide its development, but with our choice of developer and the severe worldwide economic downturn, it didn't work out. As the economy began to improve, the city began the process of finding another buyer. This time rather than trying to find one that would build precisely what we wanted, we looked for a buyer who had a similar vision to ours, a builder we could work with.
Ultimately, what is constructed will be determined by the marketplace, not a prescription from the city. I'm pleased with the selection process, which had considerable citizen input. I'm comfortable with the resulting purchase and sale agreement on the commercial portion of Kenmore Village.
The city's press release is quite detailed and explains the process, the agreement and the steps ahead quite well. Yes, a higher sales price would have been nice, but we received what the market says it is worth. Not many properties are worth more than they were in 2007.
The more conditions we place on the developer, the lower the sales price. The city did not invest in the Kenmore Village property to turn a profit, at least a profit in dollars. Where Kenmore profits on this transaction is from the resulting developer investment in the site, at least $25 million.
The city also gains from the multiplier effect on the economy, the additional retail and services, additional housing for the citizens of Kenmore and the improvement in the tax base. The names Benaroya and Main Street will signal to the community of developers that Kenmore is a great city in which to invest. I see this transaction as a catalyst for other redevelopment in Kenmore's downtown core. The city selected these buyers because they are developers who share our vision for the site, and we are confident that we will be able to work together in a win-win relationship. Yes, I am excited about Kenmore Village finally getting underway.
In your opinion, what is the best way to spur growth in the city and build a sense of community between businesses and the local government?
I want Kenmore to have the reputation as a business-friendly city. I want new businesses and existing businesses alike to be met in City Hall with a "How can we help you be successful?" enthusiasm.
Permitting and planning departments have made great strides on expediting the process of doing business in Kenmore with one-stop permitting, online permitting and a positive "Let's see how we can make this work" attitude.
Kenmore has sponsored several networking and educational events. We've opened a business incubator, providing low-cost office space, internet access and consultation services for startup businesses, in the hope that as the businesses succeed and outgrow the incubator space, they will relocate in Kenmore. Currently, we have two startups in the incubator - two businesses new to Kenmore.
Our economic development plan of 2009 suggested a business registry so the city administration would know who was doing business in Kenmore and as a means to communicate with all of the businesses located here.
The vision was a simple database with ownership data, emergency contact information, type of the business, and information for police and fire, such as hazardous materials and firearms located on the premises. Our goal was to create an information source to give us data on the businesses in Kenmore so we can better serve them.
After much discussion, the council recently approved a business registration ordinance. Registration and data collection will be through the State of Washington Department of Revenue, as this has been determined to be the most efficient means of signing up businesses and fee collection. I disagreed with the use of the Department of Revenue and preferred to process the registration locally.
Using the Department of Revenue results in the perception that, in spite of how we try to spin it, Kenmore has a business license and a new revenue source. Businesses are concerned that the camel's nose is under the tent.
It should be noted that the council has not yet set the annual registration fee. We've been talking about $25, of which $15 goes to the state in the first year and $9 each year thereafter. We could make our fee zero, but businesses would still have to pay the state their $15 registration fee.
So, now we have a business registration. Our mission now is to show the business community that our goal is to work with them, to provide supportive services, establish an online business directory with an annual printed copy and institute policies that encourage business growth.
In general, we need to show Kenmore businesses that our business registration really is an information source, not a revenue source, and that they will receive benefits of significantly greater value than their registration fee.
If you have an issue that is important to you, please tell our readers about it and what you would like to do about it as a council member?
Business/economic growth is the council's No. 1 goal. That means attracting new business to Kenmore and growing our existing businesses.
We need to make Kenmore a destination city, not a pass through city. We have several businesses that draw from the entire Puget Sound region but we need more.
We can set policies that assist and encourage business growth and market our city to those businesses looking to relocate. However, this goal cannot be accomplished by itself.
We must also continue to improve the livability of our city. We need to make Kenmore an attractive city in which to work, live and play — a place where businesses, their employees and residents are proud to call their home.
We need to continue road maintenance, build more sidewalks, provide better parks and recreation, including downtown, complete the improvements of SR-522, ensure clean air and water, and encourage and facilitate environmental stewardship. All this with fiscal responsibility.
We need to continue to improve Kenmore in the above and more ways, as funds become available. No long-term debt without a public vote. We need to continue to seek outside grant funding as much as possible in order to leverage our tax dollars. For example, we received $8.8 million in grants last year for the SR-522 project.
What is your campaign website address for residents to learn more about you?