Friday, October 17, 2014

Bellevue railroad

    The contrast between the way the cities of Bellevue and Sun Valley are rewriting their comprehensive plans could not be starker.
    Sun Valley has taken many months to ensure that the public and resort developers get their say and that everyone knows the shape of the plan. The city started with the mayor’s appointment of a 21-person steering committee that spent months working up a rewrite and soliciting public comments as it went.
    Then, the Planning and Zoning Commission did its own work, again with extensive public participation. When the plan moved up to the City Council level in August, the city hosted a town hall meeting to give residents a forum to review and comment on plan changes before the council considered them.
    In Bellevue, Mayor Chris Koch only appointed a citizens advisory committee under pressure after an unhappy public discovered that the Planning and Zoning Commission was being pressured by city officials to approve a rewrite that would reverse 40 years of zoning and open the door to commercial strip development.
    In just three meetings, the committee recommended overturning radical changes being pushed by City Planner Craig Eckles. Committee member Pat Rainey called for public comment on the committee’s work. Eckles asserted that such comment was beyond the scope of the committee’s work outlined by the mayor.
    Severely curtailing public comment, as Bellevue has done to date, is the worst thing government can do. Not only this, but the city has failed to hold hot-topic meetings anywhere but in its tiny City Hall that leaves too many citizens with nowhere to sit or stand or hear what should be public deliberations.
    The comp plan rewrite now goes to the P&Z for review in a meeting Monday, Oct. 27. P&Z members should refuse to meet unless the meeting takes place in a space where all citizens who wish to may attend and have enough time to comment.
    The P&Z needs to act as the brakeman and stop this unapologetic railroad job before it totally destroys public trust.

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