Friday, May 2, 2014

Letter: Notes on Neighborhood Meeting for the Mosque land use project on 51st Street

A few notes on yesterday's neighborhood meeting on the proposed mosque at 51 Street neighborhood:  The turnout was pretty good: there were around 30-40 people present from the applicant's side and around 150 residents.  Read More >>

The city has opened with the presentation of land use application process, and then the applicant presented his vision of the development of the site. After that the city (Thara Johnson, city planner and Kurt Seemann, transportation engineer) attempted to address the concerns expressed by the residents earlier. Then the meeting passed to Q&A and was concluded by the city's presentation of next steps in the process.

During Q&A, multiple residents have spoken up their minds voicing concerns regarding traffic, parking, scale of the project and future growth.

Based on the amount of questions the city will have another meeting on May 14th, at the city hall, 7:00 PM.

I can only share my personal impressions here, but they are pretty much aligned with the impressions few residents had after the meeting:

  • The city appears to have made up its mind regarding the application (as evidenced by the fact that Design Review Board meeting to approve design of the project is scheduled on May 15th, right after neighborhood meeting)
  • The applicant seemed both unaware and not interested in traffic issues the neighborhood already has and may have in the future as evidenced by their comments (and especially by inane comments made by their traffic engineer regarding how easy it is to perform U-turn on 154th Ave intersection with 51st St)
  • The city did very poor job of answering the concerns of the residents, with the city traffic engineer repeatedly saying he "does not anticipate" problems the residents indicated without any factual support
We can only hope both the applicant and the city staff will be better prepared for the next meeting and will present the answers the residents are hoping for. The project as it is presented right now is not ready and if approved will result in problems in multiple areas both for the neighborhood and the city of Redmond.

Here is the presentation by the city. The city did not capture video for the meeting and only captured comments by the residents. The comments captured were not shared.

By Eugene Z. 
Resident of NE 51 Street neighborhood


Susan Wilkins said...

For anyone who is interested in reviewing the plans for this project or any other project under review, you can go to the City of Redmond's Planning Department at City Hall and ask to see the folders for the project. (2nd floor, up the stairs, at the counter on the left, inside the double doors)

For this project, have the project number "LAND 2013-00171" with you so that the planner knows what you are looking for. (You may have to wait so call or email ahead of time so the files are waiting.)

There will be a thick file folder (or two) with planning documents, correspondence, maps, studies, etc. You can read through the material at the tables in the hall outside the planning department doors. Take a camera with a fresh battery and empty memory card and photograph everything. Or, take a printer/copier/scanner (remember the power cord, flash drive, paper, stapler and extra ink cartridges.) If you have a laptop that you want to download files to, remember to bring the correct cables. Wifi at city hall doesn't work well, so don't plan on using it. Plan on spending 2 or 3 hours.

Ask the planner, "Is this everything?" if some material seems to be missing. Sometimes, files are in use by other planners so they won't be available.

For this project, the parking seems to be inadequate. Thirty (30) spaces required for a 20,000 square foot facility? How did the planning department come up with this number? You can ask to see their calculations, if they're not included in the files. (The red flag is that they've been approved to squeeze 65 cars into the lot with valet parking.) The solution here looks like the site should have an underground parking garage to accomodate the parking. Why wasn't this required?

The other issue is traffic. There should be a traffic report that will show existing traffic counts and flow patterns. It is near a major freeway on-ramp so this is a concern. The traffic study will also predict how many cars will be using the facility and when. If there will be significant trafffic generated that will correspond to peak traffic flows, then traffic lights can be reprogrammed or turn lanes can be added or restriped (both paid for by the developer.)

There will be a "Staff Report" written by the planner. It will not say "Staff Report" on it, but it will include ALL OF THE IMPORTANT INFORMATION for the project, including all deals and exceptions that were agreed upon by the developer and the planning department but not included anywhere in the main files. The Staff Report is rarely put into the main file for the project so you have to ask for it (available 7 days before the project is sent to city council.)

Lastly, read through the Redmond Zoning Code to understand what the parking requirements are for this project. It is considered a religious facility, but will it be used strictly as a religious facility or will it have alternate uses such as school or office usage that might make the 30 parking spaces a reasonable requirement. (Make sure you're using the current zoning code - the site strangely used to connect me to an old zoning code that wasn't even valid.)

Whether it's a daycare, a mosque, an office building or a school, this site should not end up requiring the regular use of neighborhood streets in order to accommodate overflow parking. It should not generate dangerous traffic patterns or unreasonable backups.

Anonymous said...

"...with a local congregation of about 155. As a result, the traffic impact from the proposed mosque would be limited, especially as they estimate their daily attendance for evening prayers to be 5-10 people." (Redmond Reporter)

Why do they want to build a 22,500 building to be used daily by 5-10 people?

The leaders plan on growing the congregation (which means MORE cars) so perhaps the Redmond City council should approve a MUCH smaller building!