City of Mercer Island, Washington - Home City of Mercer Island, Washington - Home Facebook Twitter YouTube
site map
Notify me by Email
Friday, January 13, 2006

Call to Order:         Mayor Cairns called the meeting to order as follows:


                              January 13, 2006

                              5:00 pm – 6:00 pm, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm


                              January 14, 2006

                              8:30 am - 5:30 pm


                              January 15, 2006

                              8:30 am - 12:00 pm


                              In the Clarke Room at the Community Center at Mercer View.



Roll Call:                Councilmembers Sven Goldmanis, Mike Grady, Dan Grausz, El Jahncke, Steve Litzow, Deputy Mayor Jim Pearman, and Mayor Bryan Cairns were present.



The attached memo, dated January 25, 2005, to the Mercer Island City Council from Rhonda Hilyer and Ginny Ratliff with Agreement Dynamics, Inc. (Facilitator), is hereby incorporated by reference as the minutes of the 2006 Mercer Island City Council Annual Planning Session.



Adjournment:         12:00 pm, January 15, 2006.



Friday, January 13, 2006




Mayor Cairns welcomed the Council and thanked them for their confidence in his role. He commented on the tremendous capabilities and diversity of talents, strengths and interests of Councilmembers. He further noted that the City is fortunate to have such a capable and effective staff. He spoke about the importance of communication and of robust discussions, inclusive decision making and clear expression of intentions. He concluded his remarks by expressing his excitement at being in the new Community Center and his perspective that 2005 was a successful year in which the Council worked well together.


After a dinner break, the Council reconvened and City Manager Conrad, Deputy City Manager Symmonds and other City staff members presented information and a tool to assist the Council in development of a 5-year roadmap of strategic objectives and the tasks and time (Council and staff) required to accomplish them. After a spirited discussion, the Council decided to revisit this approach on Sunday in the context of setting their 2006 action priorities as well as for longer-term planning.


Before adjourning, the facilitator reviewed the retreat agenda and ground rules and summarized the outcome of the evening’s discussion.



Saturday, January 14, 2006




City Manager Rich Conrad reviewed the Council’s accomplishments based on the goals set at the 2005 retreat:

·         Two changes, recommended at the 2005 Council retreat, were made to the Budget Service Priorities.

·         The City moved forward on the Luther Burbank Park planning process and a final proposed Master Plan is due for completion in the first quarter of 2006.

·         The City followed through with the letter to the Boys and Girls Club indicating the earmarked $1 million for their facility remodel will be held in abeyance. The remodel has evolved into the PEAK project.

·         Code changes to allow expansion and siting of day care and pre-school facilities in residential neighborhoods was adopted in December 2005.

·         At the request of Council, staff prepared a report on design commissions in other cities and completed a survey of design review applicants. The report and survey were forwarded to the Council. 

·         Some Board and Commission liaisons did provide status reports, and some did not.

·         At the direction of Council, staff hired an urban design consultant and property developer to consider the feasibility of creating a connection between Luther Burbank, Town Center, and the Community Center. The presentation of their findings will be at the January 17, 2006 Council meeting.

·         The City retained a consultant to monitor all I-90 activities, a lobbyist to represent the City on I-90 issues at the state legislature, and a traffic engineering consultant to advise the City on the WSDOT study and any other traffic analyses related to I-90. In addition, the City negotiated a letter among I-90 MOA signatories allowing Mercer Island traffic to remain as long as possible in the center roadway and then relocate to the new HOV lanes in the outer roadways as part of the R8A project. 

·         After considerable discussion at the last retreat, the Council approved and spent the revenue carry-forward funds.

·         The Council will use a new priorities of government prioritization approach for Capital Improvement Program (CIP) as they consider their biennium budget in the fall of 2006.

·         Individuals concerned about mid-block crossings made a report to the Council in June 2005.

·         The Critical Areas Ordinance was completed in 2005.

·         The Community Center was completed and the grand opening, considered a tremendous success, was held on December 10, 2005.

·         The City Manager’s review process was revised and completed in December 2005. 


Next, the facilitator asked for Council comments on the year’s accomplishments. They included:

·         Mayor Cairns noted that the Council and the City had achieved what they set out to do. He gave kudos to the staff for a job well done.

·         City Manager Conrad noted these accomplishments were completed in nine months since the retreat was held later last year.

·         Councilmember Pearman recommended doing a better job of acknowledging and celebrating the work accomplished by the Council and City staff. He also indicated the importance of sharing these accomplishments with the Mercer Island community.

·         The Mayor requested that liaisons regularly report to the Council their attendance at Board and Commission meetings.





Next, the Council re-examined and affirmed its 2006 budget service priorities. They discussed the value of prioritizing city functions during budget discussions and City Manager Conrad explained that the City’s budget was on target based on these priorities. He also reported on a second way the City evaluates budget priorities by classifying services as either mandatory, essential or discretionary. He clarified that the difference between the first and third tiers of priority #1, community safety, is emergent priorities versus prevention activities.


The Council also touched on the relationship between budget priorities and the five-year approach to prioritize and schedule Council tasks through 2010.





The Mayor asked for a summary presentation by appointed Councilmembers at the end of each discussion topic. This approach continued throughout the two-day retreat. He requested the facilitator provide a summary of Friday night’s discussion.


Friday Night’s Discussion Summary:  A new 5-year road map was introduced by Councilmember Litzow. It is a way to look at the City’s priorities over time within the context of the City’s business. The Council will examine what’s important for 2006, get clarity on those priorities, and talk about how those goals fit into the longer, 5-year timeframe. This new tool is one that can be used and discussed in greater detail on Sunday when 2006 priorities are set.





City Manager Conrad updated the Council on the current status of the PEAK project and PEAK’s application for a code amendment regulating the amount of impervious surfaces at the High School/North Mercer Campus. He also shared interests the staff had identified relative to the City’s statutory responsibility as well as program and service opportunities for the community.


Councilmembers discussed ownership and operational matters for the old Boys and Girls Club and were informed that the Club is not looking to the City to participate in any operational aspects of the East Seattle site. Parks and Recreation Director Mayer indicated ongoing discussions about City scheduling for all users and the possibility of an island-wide recreation pass for Boys and Girls Club programs, Mary Wayte Pool, and Parks and Recreation’s activities at the Community Center.


Councilmembers discussed the 10-year commitment that Mr. O’Brien has made to the Boys and Girls Club to purchase the old site, put in a Little League field, and retain the site as an open space. They discussed the City’s interests in maintaining that open space and options available to ensure it remained as such.


They discussed a recent neighborhood meeting where community members expressed concern about existing parking and traffic problems on 86th and 40th prior to the PEAK development. The Council discussed the intersection’s level of service as “D”. They also discussed past high school expansion that has resulted in neighborhood spillover parking. Councilmember Grausz explained that changing bus parking at the high school may help reduce some of the parking problems there.


Councilmembers and City Attorney Lindell discussed legally acceptable ways for the City to support the Boys and Girls project.


The Council discussed their role as regulators and considered options for supporting the PEAK project. City Manager Conrad asked the Council whether or not they wanted to address the parking and traffic problems at the PEAK site, require School District to fix the problem or partner with the School District and Boys and Girls Club to brainstorm and help solve the problem. Councilmember Litzow suggested the PEAK Committee provide recommendations on how to spend the earmarked $1 million. Councilmember Pearman requested including options for investments in West Mercer. Councilmember Grady expressed concern about changing the code to deal with the impervious surface issues and suggested alternatives like retrofitting and mitigation.


City Manager Conrad suggested a thorough presentation to the Council on the status of PEAK.


Councilmember Jahncke summarized the agreements reached:

·         Most Councilmembers support the proposed PEAK project.

·         Council recommends staff be proactive and help the School District and the Boys and Girls Club problem solve ways to deal with traffic and parking issues.

·         Now and through the first quarter of 2006:

o        The Council will actively engage in the process.

o        The PEAK Subcommittee will be the Council’s representative.

o        The Council’s role is primarily, although not exclusively, regulatory (the City is not the project lead but will be involved in problem solving and some partnering activities).

o        $1 million earmarked by the City will be invested in a legal manner to support the project.

o        The Subcommittee will generate and analyze options to do so and will recommend how to invest the $1 million to the full Council (this will include appropriate public involvement).

o        Solutions to address both parking and traffic issues (including the existing parking deficit) will be sought.





Deputy City Manager Deb Symmonds listed the ways that the City and School district collaborate in the areas of public safety, maintenance, parks, and youth and family services. City Manager Conrad explained the historical evolution of this sharing of resources.


Councilmember Jahncke raised the question if the City taxpayer was receiving an adequate “quid pro quo” for the services and facilities exchanged between the City and the School District.


The Mayor noted that the progress made on collaboration with the schools has been short of the Council’s vision, but that he wouldn’t want their performance thus far to prohibit future win-win collaborations. He also recommended that they clear up first step scheduling issues before going forward with others.


As to why there hasn’t been more progress, City Manager Conrad noted that the School District is more decentralized, and has very little staff who are outside of the classroom. He also noted that some staff have a perception that they’ll lose access to facilities for their own programs.


The Mayor suggested staff give the Council their impression on the “quid pro quo” relationship and set up two joint meetings with the Council and the School Board ASAP. City Manager Conrad suggested that it might be instructive to ask the District to provide an on-screen demonstration about how to schedule the high school room use.




Councilmember Pearman summarized agreements regarding scheduling and coordination of School Facilities:

1.      Keep talking with the School District.

2.      Before adding more facilities, resolve scheduling snafus with existing ones.

3.      Set meeting dates with School Board now for joint meetings in the spring and fall. Set a date for a separate meeting of the two bodies to receive a presentation on the “Linkages” effort.

4.      Notify District staff that at the next Council/Board meeting they are asked to provide an onscreen demonstration on how to schedule high school room usage.

5.      City staff will provide the Council with an analysis of the quid-pro-quo between the City and School District on the use of facilities versus maintenance of South Mercer Playfields.





Deputy City Manager Symmonds described 2005’s public involvement process for Luther Burbank and indicated the Council would see a draft Master Plan in spring of 2006. Parks and Recreation Director Mayer explained that there are 4-5 outstanding issues from the community meetings for which there is no clear majority opinion.


The Council and staff discussed a variety of approaches and timing to resolving these questions. Councilmember Grausz recommended that at Town Hall Meeting #2 the public’s input be focused on these outstanding issues and the Council will consider their input when making final revision or approval of the Master Plan.


Councilmember Goldmanis summarized

·         Council has engaged in an extensive and open public process.

·         Staff will get focused, public input at Town Hall 2 on the 4-5 critical issues/questions yet to be resolved.

·         Staff will bring this input to Council before recommending a direction or preferred alternative for the Luther Burbank 20-year plan.





City Manager Rich Conrad explained that the draft Parks and Recreation Plan has been submitted to the Council’s Parks Subcommittee for review. He stated that the public process, needs assessment and community planning process elements need to be completed before the Plan will be eligible for parks and recreation, salmon recovery, habitat restoration and erosion control grants.


Parks and Recreation Director Mayer indicated the necessity to engage the community in a holistic look at recreation and open space sufficiency and gaps in order to be awarded key state recreational grants.


Councilmember Jahncke expressed concern about the length, cost, and outcome of another public process. In response, Parks and Recreation Director Mayer offered an efficient, “crisp” approach to completing the plan. The Council stated that they would be responsible for the public involvement process.


Councilmember Grady asked if there was adequate regulatory protection of existing open space. City Manager Conrad explained that while there is no threat from other entities, future City Councils could choose to develop existing open space.  


Next the Council discussed their philosophies on open space. Councilmember Goldmanis started the discussion with his concern about funding the maintenance of the existing 467.5 acres under the City’s current ownership. Councilmember Grausz suggested developing an open-space acquisition program, like Seattle has done, and asking the voters to fund it. Councilmember Jahncke recommended that funding and maintaining existing open space should be the Council’s priority, not acquiring more, and that he would not support going to the public with this proposal.  Mayor Cairns felt that having a pool of funds to acquire small, strategic land connections with existing open space would be desirable. Councilman Pearman expressed the need to be able to acquire unique, high value places on the Island. Councilmember Grady supported a trust fund and noted the avoided costs of storm water runoff by acquiring open space. Councilmember Goldmanis added that Mercer Island’s taxes are high and that survey results indicate that citizens want the parks maintained, but not more acquired. Councilmember Litzow favored maintenance over acquisition and expressed concern about funding Luther Burbank.


Councilmember Grausz summarized:

·         The City will complete the Parks and Recreation Comp Plan using the “crisp” approach.

·         The Council takes responsibility for the public involvement process.

·         The City will use existing specific plans to the extent possible.

·         The majority of the Council supports strategic purchases of open spaces; e.g., small pieces connecting to larger pieces already acquired.

·         Ancillary to the Comp Plan, staff will identify techniques and tools for acquiring and maintaining open space for Council consideration.

·         A high priority of this Council is to fund the maintenance of existing parks and open space.





City Manager Conrad said that the new community center’s subsidy from the City’s General Fund was initially set at the rate of the old community center ($200,000). To make up the difference in higher costs, the Center has increased its user fees (estimated to generate $290,000). As a result, members of the community have expressed concern about the increased fees. He went on to say that staff needs guidance from the Council on philosophy and strategy to fund the Community Center.


The Council discussed options for reducing fees for Mercer Island groups. They also discussed whether or not it was too early to be revising the Center’s fees since it just opened. Councilmember Goldmanis asked for a running report of the cost/income for operating the Center. City Manager Conrad suggested quarterly reports brought to the Parks and Recreation Subcommittee and then to the full Council.


Councilmember Grady summarized the Council’s agreements:

·         After discussion of fee equity, the Council agrees to increase the General Fund subsidy by $50,000 with staff directed to look at ways to reduce fees for Mercer Island residents and groups.

·         Council would like to check-in in nine months on the balancing of user fees and subsidies.




Deputy City Manager Symmonds introduced State Representative Fred Jarrett who described legislative proposals in Olympia concerning the future of regional transportation issues and agencies like Sound Transit, RTID, and Puget Sound Regional Council.


Representative Jarrett stated that for Sound Transit Phase 2, the making up of a $2 billion shortfall in the Northgate to SeaTac Light Rail corridor will set the funding level for the Eastside. That funding, he felt, would likely be diverted from 81 proposed Eastside projects to funding light rail across I-90. This would defer any repair of Eastside problems or improved access to Eastside cities where significant housing and employment growth is occurring. Representative Jarrett said rail is a good thing, but not before a rail convertible BRT system and a bus system that supports ridership into Eastside business districts is in place.  Mayor Cairns recommended staff create a one-page “talking points” paper on the “Eastside First” approach for Council.


Councilmember Litzow provided a summary of general Council agreement on approach:

·         Focus efforts to create Eastside support for an “Eastside First” using “rail convertible BRT” high capacity transit across the lake on I-90.

·         Work with other Eastside cities through E.T.P. and Suburban Cities to advance this approach.





The group discussed the current role of the Council Liaison to the City’s boards and commissions. Members expressed concern that Liaisons only sit in the audience and are not involved in the board or commission discussions. There was also concern about bringing the Planning and Design Commissions more in sync with the direction given by the Council. The group also discussed having staff develop the work plan for each board or commission. Councilmember Grausz recommended that the Liaison sit on the dais with the commission, but not vote.  Councilmember Pearman reminded liaisons of the importance of expressing only the Council’s opinion as a body, not their own individual thinking.


Mayor Cairns provided the Council agreements:

·         The Council Liaison will sit on the dais and participate in discussions of the Design Commission, Planning Commissions and Utility Board, but will not vote.

·         Liaisons share only Council’s position on an issue, when one has been established.

·         City Attorney Lindell will bring to Council a written draft regarding participation rules.

·         Appointment process:

o        Follow existing rules;

o        Liaison and Mayor talk and recommend.

·         Boards & Commissions are allowed to raise new issues and ideas—the Liaison will bring these ideas back to the Council who determines if staff time will be allocated to these work efforts.

·         Boards & Commissions agendas are included in Council packets on Thursday.

·         When Liaisons report out at each meeting, Councilmembers will be attentive to these presentations.

·         Council and Planning and Design Commissions will meet in joint study session to discuss work plans.

·         Council will be alerted when there are vacancies.


The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.



Sunday, January 14, 2006




City Manager Conrad explained the purpose of the Ad Hoc Committee Review of the Town Center Design Standards. Councilmember Grausz described the group’s initial meeting wherein the consensus was that the members were prepared to look at design guidelines and to propose modifications that would address the seven focus areas outlined by the Council.


The Council discussed development incentive options for affordable housing, open areas or piazzas, parking, and more retail in the Town Center. They discussed amenities for acquiring density bonuses and some Councilmembers commented on the importance of providing incentives to developers rather than “back-door requirements.” Councilmembers also raised the prospect of City-owned parking in a centralized location to encourage more activity and pedestrians. There was concern that each building’s parking garage will restrict parking to their customers only. The likely result will be consumers driving from one building to another rather than walking. At the City Manager’s suggestion, the Council discussed purchasing parking in one of the buildings being developed. Rather than commit staff time, Councilmember Goldmanis recommended asking one or more of the developers for a quote on adding an additional floor.  


Councilmember Grady summarized:

·         The Ad Hoc Committee met and is ready to review the existing codes with seven focus areas.

·         The Committee is looking at affordable housing and parking.

·         The Council awaits their recommendations in April and Council will work with the staff to explore: public amenities, public gathering places (piazzas), and parking issues.

·         Council will explore cost estimates to purchase a floor of parking in a centralized location of the Town Center area.





Deputy City Manager Symmonds reported on the City’s extensive and successful public involvement efforts on Luther Burbank. She explained the City did a baseline customer satisfaction survey during the 2005-2006 budget process and will repeat the survey again this year. 


Councilmember Grausz raised the difficulty of communicating the City’s message to the public and recommended creating a public relations/communications office that would represent all departments. The Council discussed the pros/cons of this approach and Councilmember Goldmanis recommended collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce.


City Manager Conrad suggested staff come back in 4-6 weeks with a proposal of ideas to improve the City’s direct communication with its citizenry. He suggested the possibility of restructuring some City functions to achieve the goal, as well as the likely need for more tools and resources. He discussed working with the Chamber’s office in Town Center as well as newsletters and broadcasting Council meetings.


Other ideas were raised, including Councilmember Grausz’s of putting Council agenda bills on the internet on Thursday night. City Manager Conrad indicated that the City Clerk was currently spending all Thursday producing the Council packets, and it would be difficult to add more to her workload. The Councilmember recommended including how to do this in the public information plan.   


Councilmembers asked about community feedback on the new telephone system. Development Services Team Leader Kirsten Taylor indicated feedback had been neutral.


Councilmember Grady suggested holding City Council meetings in the community as a way to reach out to the citizens of Mercer Island. Councilmembers Goldmanis and Pearman echoed the sentiment and suggested venues like Youth Theatre and other public gatherings.


Councilmember Litzow provided a summary of discussion and action items:  

·         The City Manager and staff will develop a proposal for a public information effort city wide. The proposal will include things like getting agenda bills on the internet Thursday nights before the Council meetings, ways to partner with the Chamber, newsletters, and getting Council meetings out of City Hall. This public information effort may involve increased staff resources.





Councilmember Jahncke related his experience and concerns with Development Services’ fees and customer service. First, he questioned the inconsistency of fees.  His variance permit to encroach into a setback cost $2,300. He compared that to the $500 cost of an appeal for parking reconfiguration at Island Park Elementary, for which he believed required a considerable amount of staff time. Next, he questioned the language of the permit. His initial permit would have required a geotechnical survey, but after explaining to staff that his site was flat the reissued permit indicated it “may require a geotechnical study.” In addition, the permit stated, “A separate permit is required for grading, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, etc.”—all of which were unrelated to his project. He commented that homeowner permits should not have extraneous language that is only applicable to large developments. To conclude he stated he didn’t want a code rewrite from Development Services, rather, a look at how the Department does business, what permits are used for homeowners and the fee inconsistencies. Finally he asked for clarification on what a homeowner could do to their house that didn’t require a permit.


Other Councilmembers shared their experiences or anecdotal information from other sources, including Councilmember Goldmanis who said downtown builders indicated they had received good service from the Department.


City Manager Rich Conrad explained that the fee structure for permits and land use were set 5-6 years ago based on the recommendation from a cost accountant. Fees have been updated for inflation, but that the Department is at a 58% cost recovery on permit fees versus staff time to process those permits. He also noted the importance of equity in fees. He suggested next steps to be Development Services staff take a concerted look at the culture, values, and systems and make adjustments in residential permitting where necessary. He indicated a look at fees would be done in conjunction with the budget process. 


Development Services Team Leader Kirsten Taylor indicated that the areas raised by Councilmember Jahncke are those which are more difficult for citizens, but acknowledged the need to refine the system to work better.


Councilmember Pearman summarized action steps:

·         Staff commit to improve service delivery to residential zones (single-family homes, clubs, and churches)

·         Recommendations for fee structures and consistency changes will be brought back to the Council as part of the budget process

·         Provide a list of work that does not require a homeowner to get a permit

·         Use customer satisfaction data as a measure of success





Deputy City Manager Symmonds provided a brief update on projects related to I-90 and Mercer Island.  She briefed the Council on a WSDOT study commissioned to make recommendations on whether the I-90 center roadway should be non-exclusive or exclusive for high capacity transit. She indicated they would be reporting in March or April of 2006.


Councilmember Goldmanis asked if Mercer Island use of westbound HOV lanes from Bellevue was an option. Symmonds indicated that the MOA parties have not discussed HOV lane use east of Island Crest Way.


The Mercer Island Park-and-Ride lot will be closed for one year beginning mid-February, 2006. Sound Transit will be constructing a two-story, 450-space parking garage at the existing Park-and-Ride site. Deputy City Manager Symmonds explained Park-and-Ride operation during the closure, the number of replacement lots opened on Mercer Island, Sound Transit’s efforts to educate the public about this closure, and the addition of Park-and-Ride capacity in neighboring Issaquah, Bellevue, North Bend and Newcastle. 


Councilmember Jahncke questioned why, during the Blue Angels practice for SeaFair, does I-90 need to be closed so many times, stranding Islanders and adversely impacting business. 


Councilmember Grausz summarized:

·         The presentation was an informational update of projects related to I-90 and Mercer Island.

·         Some Councilmembers raised concerns about the length and frequency of the closure of I-90 for Blue Angels practice during SeaFair. The Council suggested sending a letter to WSDOT concerning the adverse impact of these closures on Mercer Islanders.





Councilmember Litzow recommended that the City Manager and Mayor’s Cabinet develop the City Manager’s goals for 2006 and bring it back to the Council for review. The timeline was set for within four weeks.





Councilmember Litzow described the Proposed Council Work Tasks and Schedule (Attachment 1) as a method for budgeting how much time the Council spends on issues relative to its priorities.


The Council discussed different work items. City Attorney Lindell described Communities that Care as a program for Youth and Family Services and schools that addresses issues like drugs, alcohol, and suicide. Councilmember Jahncke suggested this discussion be on the joint Council-School Board meeting. Councilmember Grady suggested providing targeted police enforcement on dance nights aimed at parents more than teens.  


Councilmember Grausz asked for an emergency-preparedness briefing during the next round of budget discussions.


Councilmember Litzow suggested holding a mini planning session in June.


Councilmember Jahncke expressed approval for the Mayor’s summarizing approach on each topic discussed. 


City Manager Conrad promised quarterly reports on how Council activities are meeting the goals set forth in this Schedule. The 5-Year Plan will be included in the Council’s Rules notebook for reference.


The Council’s established its 2006 priorities, which are:

·         Produce and adopt Biennial Budget

·         I-90

·         Luther Burbank Master Plan

·         Sewer Lakeline Project

·         Parks &Recreation Strategic Plan

·         DSG Service Review

·         DSG Fees Review

·         PEAK

·         Town Center Code Amendments

·         Implementation of Town Center Code Amendment recommendations

·         Town Center Parking

·         Public Involvement Process

·         Communities That Care

·         Fire Apparatus

·         Emergency Preparedness

·         Regional Dispatch

·         Luther Burbank-Town Center Connection (overlay)





After discussion and respect conveyed for all nominated candidates, the Council agreed on a Citizen of the Year recipient (to be announced at a later date).





Facilitator Rhonda Hilyer praised the Council and staff for a successful planning session. She also lauded the Council for its creative teambuilding approach. She congratulated the new Mayor for his balanced and inclusive approach and for being time and task focused. She welcomed the Council’s newest member, Councilmember Grady, and noted that he quickly acclimated and effectively advocated his priorities.


City of Mercer Island Washington | All Rights Reserved © 2019| Privacy Policy | printer friendly version Printer friendly version | Site Handcrafted in Ashland, Oregon by Project A