A wide cross-section of Bothell’s citizenry told elected city officials last week just how much they love the Park at Bothell Landing — just as it is. In fact, they declared emphatic support for expanding the urban park as a treasured public, open space not to be frittered away to surface parking lots and huge, out-of-scale public structures.
They did not envision a new, dominating three-story city hall and an underground connected one-story council chambers, in stark contrast to the historical buildings and recreation flavor so popular with those who visit and revere their park by the river.
The only person speaking at a public hearing in support of locating a new city hall at a modestly expanded park was the city manager, who read from prepared remarks to describe his favored alternative location in such unfortunate terms as the “beta Bothell” commercial site. Bob Stowe said it was his belief that the park location “will serve as a monument of integrity and recreation opportunity.” Not a single speaker addressing the council agreed with him.
To his credit, Mayor Mark Lamb assured park supporters that at least one or two more public meetings will be held by the council to receive more public input on the evaluation of three potential new city-hall sites. He reminded a standing-room-only audience that no decisions as to a site selection would be made at the meeting. Last week’s audience agreed that the city should locate a new hall on its present site across from the Bothell Police Station and near the Municipal Court building. This, they said, would make an attractive civic campus tied closely to a revitalized downtown.
The third site is the two-story historical brick Anderson School building, located next to the public swimming pool on the Bothell-Everett Highway. None spoke in favor of converting Anderson to become City Hall, although it appeared to many to be a better alternative than the park.
A consultant was paid $50,000 to “study” yet again the three alternatives. He provided cost estimates of between $34 million and $38 million. There was no discussion of how the city would come up with this money or whether land costs were included in his numbers. At one time during the downtown Bothell visioning process, there had been talk that the city manager and his staff had contended that a profitable turnaround sale by the city of the downtown Northshore school property would provide a substantial portion of the funding.
The consultant’s 50-page report had not been available prior to the meeting.
If you have been following the development of the Brightwater treatment plant north of Woodinville, that project was once estimated to cost $1.2 billion and the latest numbers tossed about exceed $1.89 billion. Sewer bills in King and Snohomish counties will reflect those runaway costs. Edmonds would have been a much cheaper location.
No timetable was offered which might take into consideration such unanticipated, but typical upward cost estimate adjustments for a Bothell City Hall project. The consultant claimed it would cost $2 million to temporarily relocate the present staff from the 1938-built City Hall should the present, city-owned location be selected. I missed hearing any mention of what the space requirements might be to finally centralize present and projected future city staffing. The cost estimates for a new or retrofitted city hall, however, were based on whether the city would annex areas presently under consideration.
The consultant and the city manager clearly took their lumps from those using their allotted three minutes to express displeasure with usurping Bothell’s historic riverfront open space for a public building. Several were disturbed by the consultant’s weighted listing of pro and con elements included for each site. A seeming imbalance, some citizens contended, tipped the scales heavily to the park site. I agree.
For example, listing the present site’s close proximity to the downtown core as a plus, why then was the “beta Bothell” location across a four-lane highway by the river not listed as a con? If noise pollution was a concern at the Anderson School site along Bothell-Everett Highway, why was it not an issue at the “beta” site where 40,000 cars a day travel Bothell Way (State Route 522), for instance?
Jack traveled from his city residence in annexed south Snohomish County. He was succinct. “We don’t need a Taj Mahal,” he declared, “it would ruin the ambience of the park.”
A nurse living along East Riverside Drive expressed how important open space is to the burgeoning retirement community surrounding the popular Northshore Senior Center — one of the most active and envied in Puget Sound.
Larry was among those asking if the city’s studies had given adequate study of wetlands or attention to the meandering underground Horse Creek, which flows from Country Village to the Sammamish River — right through the park.
Walt questioned the ability to overcome serious engineering challenges at either the Anderson or park sites.
Several more speakers disagreed with the city manager’s “visioning” remarks, contending that an architecturally out-of-context building would pose a visually negative impression on visitors and potential users of downtown shops or services.
One would hope the elected officials of our city would get the message. Apparently at this stage of the lengthy revitalization deliberations, the city manager, as one presenter said, values the views of his own administration over those of the citizens who pay their salaries.
The so-called “beta Bothell” commercial site is an invasive affront to the real and emotional attachment Bothell citizens have to a dearly loved piece of city landscape we call the Park at Bothell Landing.
John Hughes was owner-publisher of the Northshore Citizen from 1961 to 1988 and is active in local nonprofit organizations.