Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Isthmus Interim Rezone Ordinance Passes

Above: City Council members chat after the city council meeting Tuesday night.

by Janine Gates

An ordinance to adopt an interim rezone for the isthmus area downtown passed unanimously tonight by the Olympia City Council. A public hearing for the interim rezone will be held Tuesday, February 23, with the location to be announced. The hearing will likely be held at the Olympia Center or the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

Councilmember Stephen Buxbaum made the motion to suspend the usual rules and practices so the draft ordinance could be passed on first and final reading. "I respectfully encourage that we move quickly and put this behind us as soon as possible before the council retreat." Hyer seconded the motion with some concerns about setting aside usual rules. "(But) I don't see any harm doing this...because we've seen this before."

Discussion and clarifications ensued with Councilmember Rhenda Strub asking city attorney Tom Morrill how may votes it takes to suspend the rules. "Five," was his reply. Strub acknowledged that she felt like she was in the hot seat.

Councilmember Craig Ottavelli also expressed concern with the motion, saying that he respects the "value of the process," to have further readings. "It's about what we don't know - something we can improve upon or change and find something we missed...."

Mayor Doug Mah offered an amendment to Buxbaum's motion which, after considerable discussion, did not pass. "This is one of those times I wish I had a written agenda. There are people who think we cook this stuff up ahead of time but I'm hearing this for the first time," said Strub. Councilmember Roe agreed, saying, "This is unknown territory...."

Mah's intent was, essentially, a text amendment "to address the need for urban housing and the height on the isthmus to retain the urban waterfront zone that was already in place and eliminate the height bonus," may have speeded up the process, according to city attorney Tom Morrill, but confused councilmembers. Some councilmembers may have also been concerned that it would contradict what had been agreed upon at last week's city council meeting.

Above: Community members chat after the city council meeting Tuesday night. Paul and Sue Mellon also attended, which was their first city council meeting since recently moving from Ferndale, California.

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