Striving for balance in preserving the environment and making sure property owners aren’t too constricted by the city’s zoning codes, the Bothell City Council, at a special meeting on Dec. 27, unanimously voted to approve code amendments for the infamous Fitzgerald subarea. (Councilmember Joshua Freed was absent, and Mayor Andy Rheaume participated by calling into the meeting.)
The Fitzgerald subarea has been a source of controversy for the city for two decades, with previous ordinances impacting the area, including 2163, drawing intense debate between environmental activists and property owners.
In late 2014, the council approved ordinance 2163, which loosened development restrictions in the Fitzgerald and 35th Avenue SE, and the Canyon Creek and 39th Avenue subareas.
A local environmental group called Save A Valuable Environment (SAVE) filed an appeal of that ordinance with the Central Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board, claiming it was inconsistent with environmental protections laid out in the city’s comprehensive plan.
The hearings board sided with SAVE, overturning the city’s ordinance and citing possible damage to the salmon habitat in the area and contamination of North Creek.
The council at first decided to appeal the hearings board’s decision but later dropped the appeal in early 2016. According to previous Reporter articles, many homeowners feel left in the lurch after decades of legislative turmoil affecting the area.
The council and city staff moved forward after the decision to drop the appeal by drafting amendments to the codes to include more environmental protections. The Fitzgerald subarea was a topic of discussion at several council meetings and public hearings, starting in May and continuing into December.
At the public hearings, members of SAVE still voiced objections, mainly to the transparency of the process, but property owners also spoke out in favor of being able to finally finish the code amendments.
“I think we’re doing the right thing today,” Rheaume said by phone at the Dec. 27 meeting, adding the amendments to the zoning codes struck a balance between protecting the environment and helping property owners.
“It’s the right decision for the environment, and it’s the right decision for Bothell,” Deputy Mayor Davina Duerr said.
Councilmember Tris Samberg, who was noted for her thoroughness and attention to detail throughout the process by city staff and her fellow councilmembers, also thought the newly approved code amendments put several good things in place.
“I hope this is the (ordinance) that achieves balance,” she said.
Changes were made to Bothell Municipal Code chapters 11.04, 11.16, 12,30, 12.50, 12.52, 12.62 and 12.64 as part of the ordinance approved on Dec. 27.
They include revisions to reflect modern low-impact development (LID) surface water techniques and practices, reflecting items in the city’s new surface water manual; renaming the North Creek Fish and Wildlife Critical Habitate Protection Area (NCFWCHPA) to the North Creek Protection Area (NCPA); rezoning portions of the area to different classifications to reduce the intensity of planned development; and simplifying the readibility of the regulations. More information about the Fitzgerald subarea can be found online at www.bothellwa.gov/754/Fitzgerald-Subarea.
Documentation of the code amendments can also be found in the council agenda packet from the Dec. 27 special meeting and the packets from the other meetings where public hearings were held, which include June 21, June 28, July 19, Oct. 18, Nov. 8 and Nov. 15. All of them are available online at www.bothellwa.gov/AgendaCenter.