Public engages on Sears redevelopment plan | Letter

An informational community meeting regarding Overlake’s Sears site (Heritage Park, to be developed by Seritage) was held on March 8 attended by about 100 residents evenly divided between Redmond and Bellevue. Ironically, parties interested in developments in Overlake Village had to meet at Redmond’s Marymoor Village community center since there is a lack of community venues in the Overlake neighborhood. Unlike the Group Health Master Plan that the public fully realized only weeks before the city was ready to approve it, this meeting began a conversation earlier in the planning/approval process when public voices may yet be able to guide the outcome of another significant development in Overlake.

These are some of the themes expressed by community attendees:

Revisit various SEPA Environmental Impact Study iterations, some dating back to 1999. Conditions have changed on both sides of the city limits. We need zero-based validation of fundamental assumptions, not just another amendment overlay to enable growth. The city should be a guardian of the public good — not an advocate for developers as seems to appear in this instance. Environmental impact is more than “just” traffic congestion. For example, air quality degradation from green-house gas emissions generated by these vehicles needs to be assessed.

A moratorium should be placed on future building in Overlake pending traffic studies with full understanding of newest projects including those in the Bellevue side of the Bel-Red corridor. Redmond’s transportation strategy is seemingly focused on transit, bike/ped feeders to a future Overlake Village Eastlink station and a bypass ramp from 520 to Microsoft while the audience was concerned about throughput (mostly east-west) as they go about their day as motorists — commutes and shopping in the Overlake district. Traffic/roadway mitigation items described seemed marginal (though important) details in comparison to larger congestion matters affecting both Redmond and Bellevue.

Affordable housing components — Inclusionary “10 percent at 80 percent of median income” — is a term not broadly understood by the general public and may not make much of a dent in housing needs on the Eastside. The range of potential housing options — rental versus ownership, millennial studios or one-bedroom versus “family” two- or three-bedroom units — should be refined.

Youth services — Providing tot lots and day care/kindergartens for may suffice for preschoolers in this new neighborhood, but after-school resources for “tweens” like a teen center, or venue with computer based tutoring, etc. should be addressed within Redmond’s parks and rec program. This is an opportunity for collaboration with Bellevue and their school district.

Closer cross-jurisdiction coordination — Fortunately, there was a good representation from Bellevue residents at this meeting based on innovative last-minute outreach. Integrated and pro-active planning for the Overlake district justifies a joint meeting between Redmond and Bellevue city councils — not just occasional contact between city staffs. What else is happening on the Bellevue side that could impact the Overlake district? (Is an upzone in the works for the old Unigard site?) Cumulative impacts should be assessed on a district basis regardless of which jurisdiction a project may be in.

Future opportunities to comment — Citizen views on a range of topics will be heard at Redmond Town Halls, March 29 at Audubon Elementary and April 26 at Marymoor Community Center. Public comment is also taken at regular Redmond City Council meetings, but not at study sessions (where Seritage is on the agenda for March 27 and April 24). As we have learned from the Group Health experience, showing up at a final public hearing with three weeks’ notice does not really allow the community to meaningfully affect the outcome of a master-planned development such as Seritage. Please plan to participate in this process.

Tom Hinman, facilitator

Imagine Overlake

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