Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Get rid of the rubber stamp

    Bellevue needs to get rid of its rubber stamp.
    On Monday night, Bellevue’s Planning and Zoning Commission held what was billed as a public hearing on proposed changes to its comprehensive plan. The changes could pave the way, perhaps literally, for the controversial Eccles annexation, yet the process was seriously and perhaps legally flawed.
    It wasn’t a public hearing. Instead, it was a second attempt to get the city to rubber stamp the annexation without adequate consideration and comment.
    In other cities, major comprehensive plan changes are most often the result of work by the P&Z with a citizens committee and planners. Not Bellevue’s. They were created and laid fully formed before the P&Z without this vital input. Major proposed changes include dropping requirements to discourage commercial strip-development and to preserve views—guidelines that the proposed annexation clearly violate.
    In a notice published Sept. 3, the city called for public comments on comprehensive plan changes, but didn’t list them. It listed only comprehensive plan chapter titles.
    The notice also stated that for written comments to become part of the public record and to be included in a P&Z report, they had to be submitted prior to Sept. 17. There was just one outrageous problem: the proposed changes weren’t released to the public until Thursday, Sept. 18, the day after written comments were due and just two days before the “hearing.”
    Members of the public concerned about the hatchet job on the plan and its concealment packed City Hall Monday to tell the P&Z their city deserves better.
    The P&Z took note and stopped its rubber stamp in mid-air. Commissioners say they will slow down, ask for a citizens’ advisory committee and actually deliberate on the major changes before they vote—what they should have done before they brought down the last rubber stamp.
    The P&Z needs to keep its promises and consign its rubber stamp to the junk pile.

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