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News Release


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Council Roundup: 'Megahouse' regs to go to public hearing

Also, Surrey Downs pitches in for food drive and human services funding approved

The City Council this week gave preliminary direction to pursue five of six Planning Commission recommendations designed to protect homes from negative impacts of neighborhood redevelopment, including what critics call "megahouses."

House under constructionThe six action steps were proposed by the Commission as part of the Neighborhood Character project initiated in early 2007 to address citizen concerns about the compatibility of large new homes in existing neighborhoods. The Council's direction results in these items going forward for development of draft Code language and a public hearing before the Planning Commission

Items received favorably by the Council during their Monday night study session included proposals to:

  • Increase the significant tree retention requirement in new subdivisions from 15 percent to 30 percent;
  • Set the ending time for remodeling construction at 8 p.m. daily (previously 10 p.m.);
  • Establish maintenance standards for vacant homes and abandoned building sites;
  • Regulate placement of mechanical equipment outside new homes and large residential additions;
  • Reduce lifespan of building permits from three years to two years, and establish a fee for one-year extension.

All five of the above action items will be prepared as code amendments, and all will be presented to the public at an upcoming public hearing before the Planning Commission. A final decision on adoption of the amendments will be made by the City Council in 2009.

A sixth Planning Commission proposal -- to adopt development standards for homes exceeding a certain size threshold -- received the most Council discussion. The proposal would require houses with a floor area ratio (FAR) of .5 (structure square footage exceeding 50 percent of lot square footage) to employ building practices that protect neighboring homes' access to sunlight and privacy.

Loss of light and privacy was one of the major concerns identified by residents throughout public discussions of the past two years. Some Council members said Monday they were not convinced that the FAR threshold was the best way to address residents' concerns. Council asked the Commission to consider other ways of addressing size and scale concerns -- including further limitations on the height of residences -- and to include these alternatives in the public hearing.

Height issues were addressed to some extent by Neighborhood Character amendments adopted by the Council in 2007. At that time, the city changed the method of measuring building height in order to prevent unnecessary lot build-up, but retained the single-family residential height limit of 30 feet from existing grade to midpoint of a pitched roof.

The public hearing on the five favored actions, including alternatives on the housing size and scale issue, has yet to be scheduled. The Neighborhood Character page offers updates on the project. You can also contact Neighborhood Outreach at 425-452-6836.

Feedback: Cheryl Kuhn, Neighborhood Outreach Manager, 425-452-4089 or ckuhn@bellevuewa.gov

Surrey Downs offers hefty contribution to food drive
Residents of the Surrey Downs neighborhood have involved themselves in a big way in the city's holiday food drive.

Neighborhood representatives appeared before the City Council Monday night to share the news of an enormous donation to the drive. Earlier in the day, the neighbors dropped off 86 bulging bags -- totaling 1,040 pounds -- of food collected by the neighborhood.

According to Surrey Downs Board member Betsy Blackstock, the neighborhood food drive was the brainchild of two retired couples, Bill and Carol Easterbrook and Dick and Nell Applestone. When the couples read about the city's food drive, they obtained and distributed grocery bags to Surrey Downs residents, and approached the board for help promoting the campaign. The results of their efforts will feed needy local families this holiday season.

Feedback: Cheryl Kuhn, Neighborhood Outreach Manager, 425-452-4089 or ckuhn@bellevuewa.gov

Human services funding approved
Following a recommendation from the Human Services Commission, the City Council budgeted $3.35 million to fund human services for Bellevue residents next year.

The funding will be allocated through the city's General Fund ($2.4 million) and the federal Community Development Block Grant ($956,000). 

These funds will be allocated to local human service agencies to help ensure that all Bellevue residents have access to food and shelter, support services for families, freedom from violence, mental and physical health services and education and job opportunities. In response to recent increases in requests for emergency food and housing/shelter assistance, the Council approved an increase in the Commission's "Food to Eat and Roof Overhead" goal area by $105,491. 

The Human Services Commission recommended a list of agencies for funding after receiving 91 grant applications for projects and programs that benefit low- and moderate-income residents of Bellevue. 

The applications were reviewed by criteria first established by the City Council in 1986, including the agencies' involvement in the Bellevue community, their cooperation and coordination with other providers, the appropriateness of their services for city funding, their program outcomes and their cost-effectiveness.  In addition to the grant application, current and prior year contract performance was reviewed for all programs that received previous funding.

In all, the allocations will provide funding for 80 different programs to help meet human service needs of Bellevue residents in 2009-2010. 

Feedback: Robin Haaseth, Parks & Community Services Public Information Officer, 425-452-6182 or rhaaseth@bellevuewa.gov

The Council Agendas and Council Minutes pages offer complete information regarding Council meetings.

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