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Monday, March 19, 2001

Call To Order

Mayor Merkle called the meeting to order at 7:35 pm in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 9611 SE 36th Street, Mercer Island, Washington

Roll Call

City Councilmembers Susan Blake, Bryan Cairns, El Jahncke, Sven Goldmanis, Dan Grausz, and Mayor Alan Merkle were present. Councilmember Judy Clibborn was absent.

Special Business

Resolution in appreciation of resident Marty Gale. The Council presented a resolution in appreciation of resident Marty Gale noting her appointment by Washington State Governor Gary Locke to the State Library Board, and thanking her for her service and dedication to the residents of Mercer Island.

AB 3569 Resolution in appreciation of Planning Commissioner Don Cohen.
The Council delivered a resolution in appreciation to retiring Planning Commissioner Don Cohen for his decade of service to the residents of Mercer Island.

Lucinda Soha, Executive Director of the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce, 4035 Island Crest Way, commented on the recently completed remodel of the Chamber building. She also invited the Council to a number of upcoming Chamber events. Mayor Merkle responded by thanking Ms. Soha for her appearance and encouraged everyone to participate in the Chamber’s upcoming activities.

John Dresslar, 6815 West Mercer Way, expressed his opposition to mega homes, speaking about the troubling new development adjacent to his own house.

Vincent Wormser, 9827 SE 42nd Place, asked the Council to follow the example set by local city Hunts Point, and participate in the USDA-sponsored goose control program. Mayor Merkle responded by assuring Mr. Wormser that Mercer Island has previously participated in the program, and would likely continue to do so.

Jag Hajari, 2241 66th Avenue SE, expressed his opinion that the tree ordinance should allow for pruning for the purposes of view enhancement. He also asked the Council to revisit and streamline the permit portion of the proposed ordinance, calling the present regulations cumbersome and costly.

Lisa Samuelson, 4629 84th Avenue SE, expressed her concerns about the city’s present tree ordinance, which she said constitutes a double standard allowing the utility crews to cut at will and without oversight but preventing residents from cutting in even the same areas.

Ira Appleman, 6213 83rd Place SE, appeared before the Council to express his concerns about Sound Transit’s study regarding the possible expansion of the current Mercer Island Park and Ride lot in the central business district. Dr. Appleman stated that he opposed the Council’s decision to “go along with” Sound Transit, given that the Council had previously stated it’s preference for the current lot not to be expanded. Dr. Appleman also reminded the Council that should they switch their preference for the location of a new Park and Ride location they would have to do some additional public process work. Mayor Merkle responded, clarifying the position of the City Council with regard to the Park and Ride situation. The Mayor stated that while the Council had authorized Sound Transit to expand their study of Park and Ride feasibility to include additional locations on the Island including the existing Park and Ride location, the Council had not wavered from the position that expanding the current lot was not their preference.

Mike Jared, 4664 84th SE, expressed his concern that the city government did not trust the residents of Mercer Island to be good stewards of the environment. He questioned the Council as to why there was not a “view ordinance,” given that views enhance property values at least as much as trees.

Jim Anderson, 4811 86th Avenue SE, recounted his experience in dealing with tree removal and the city’s permit process.


It was moved by Councilmember Jahncke; seconded by Councilmember Cairns to:

Approve the minutes of the Regular Meeting of February 5, 2001 as presented; and to approve the minutes of the Study Session & Regular Meeting of March 5, 2001, as follows:

Roll Call: "City Councilmembers Susan Blake, Bryan Cairns, Sven Goldmanis, Dan Grausz, El Jahncke, and Mayor Alan Merkle (arrived at 6:35 pm) were present. Councilmember Judy Clibborn was absent."

Study Session Item (1), AB 3564, Paragraph 2: "It was the consensus of the Council to indicate to Sound Transit to proceed with the public involvement, environmental review and preliminary design phases of the project that would potentially add additional parking spaces to the existing North Mercer Way park-and-ride location. Council, with the exception of Councilmember Jahncke, however, reiterated its preferences that the lot be relocated south of the freeway and include dedicated parking stalls for Mercer Island residents.

The Chair put the question on the motion; Motion Passed 6-0.

Consent Calendar
Payables: $ 444,671.55  
Payrolls: $443,699.37

Councilmember Goldmanis requested Item (4), Agenda Bill 3567 be removed from the Consent Calendar and heard under Regular Business.

It was moved by Councilmember Jahncke; seconded by Councilmember Cairns to:

Approve the Consent Calendar and the recommendations contained therein.

The Chair put the question on the motion; Motion Passed 6-0.

Regular Business

AB 3567 Performance Measures Report for 2000(Removed From Consent Calendar)

Councilmember Goldmanis suggested that it would be useful to use the Performance Measures Report for the purposes of generating Council priorities, particularly with regard to Public Safety. Councilmember Goldmanis stated that the Council could learn from the report with respect to how they could better serve the community. Mayor Merkle responded that in the interest of time it might be preferable to discuss the report at a later time, either at the retreat or at another meeting for which the report could be added to the Planning Schedule.

It was moved by Councilmember Jahncke; second by Councilmember Cairns to:

Receive the 2000 Performance Measures Report and add discuss the report at the retreat, time allowing, for the purposes of generating Council priorities.

The Chair put the question on the motion, Motion Passed 6-0.

AB 3568 Year End Finance Report
Finance Director Joanne Sylvis presented the year-end finance report, beginning with an explanation of the general revenue-expenditure picture. Director Sylvis stated that revenues were 13% over projection for the year and that expenditures had been slightly less than projected, resulting in a $2.3 million dollar cash carry-over. She then went on to break down from where the excess revenue had been generated, siting greater than anticipated sales tax revenues, utility tax revenues, licensing and permitting revenues, and interest on the City’s accounts.

In response to Councilmembers’ questions regarding utility tax revenues, Director Sylvis volunteered to monitor the situation on a monthly basis and report this information back to the Council.

In a very brief review of the city’s expenditures, Joanne commented that both utility expenditures and expenditures for contractual services had been over budget, but that on the whole the city had spent approximately $124,000 less than they had anticipated in the previous budget cycle.

With regard to rising utility prices (particularly the cost of water), Director Sylvis reminded the Council that the city would be looking into how it could conserve water and energy in preparation for the coming drout, and would be holding an energy summit as a part of those efforts.

Following her report, Director Sylvis made her recommendations regarding what to do with the cash carry-over. Joanne asked the Council to reserve $100,000 from the carry-over to pay for cash-outs associated with retirements in the Public Safety Department, and to transfer the remaining carry-over into the Capital Reserve Fund where the Council could later decide how to make use of the funds. Alternatively, Director Sylvis told the Council that in addition to reserving some of the carry-over for retirement cash-outs, they could also allocate $275,000 to pay for this year’s voted debt instead of passing that along with property taxes to the residents of the Island. Director Sylvis also cautioned the Council that while property tax relief is an important priority, relief must be provided responsibly in order to preserve the fiscal stability of the city.

After concluding her presentation and recommendations, Director Sylvis responded to Council’s various questions regarding the budget, the year-end finance report, and property tax relief.

It was moved by Councilmember Jahncke; second by Councilmember Cairns to:

Appropriate $75,000 from the Water Fund to complete the reservoir project, appropriate $40,000 from the Stormwater Fund for drainage pond and site improvement work to complete the Basin 32 Storm Drainage Project, and move to adopt Ordinance No. 01-01 incorporating certain budget revisions to the 2001-2002 biennial budget and amending Ordinance No. 00-11.

The Chair put the question on the motion, Motion Passed 6-0.

The Council then discussed whether or not to appropriate funds from the Capital Reserve account at this time for property tax relief or whether they should wait and discuss property tax relief in the context of the entire $4.5 million surplus at the retreat.

Council concluded this discussion by affirming their unanimous commitment to tax relief for the citizens of Mercer Island, and by deciding to delay further discussion of the issue until the retreat.

AB 3566 Tree Ordinance: Draft Review II
City Attorney Londi Lindell made a presentation of the Draft Tree Ordinance on behalf of herself, Development Services Director Richard Hart, Building Official Don Cole, and Charlie Simpson. Ms. Lindell reminded the Council that the recommendations contained in the draft ordinance originated not only from herself, Mr. Hart, Mr. Cole, and Mr. Simpson, but also from the city’s arborist, Parks and Recreation Director, Maintenance Director, and the Mercer Island resident who had provided their comments on the issue. Ms. Lindell further reminded the Council that their suggestions and directions articulated at the February 5th City Council Meeting had also been incorporated into the draft.

Following her opening remarks, City Attorney Lindell focused the discussion on the areas in which the Council had yet to reach consensus.

City Attorney Lindell stated that the first area in which there was no council consensus had to do with flat lots, which are defined as lots not on a critical slope or part of another critical area such as protected wetland. With regard to the issue of flat lots, Londi presented two options for the Council; Option A, no regulation on flat lots except incident to construction and where other current regulations apply, and Option B, wherein the city would regulate all flat lots using a tree diameter/lot size ration. City Attorney Lindell commented that the appeal of the tree diameter/lot size ratio had to do with its ease of enforcement, and reminded the Council that the City of Seattle uses a similar ratio to regulate trees under similar conditions.

The second area in which the Council has not yet reached consensus has to do with pruning for view on public lands. Ms. Lindell reminded the Council that there had been some concerns regarding the public notification section of the ordinance regarding who is able to comment (the larger “public” or just the neighbors affected by the pruning). She then reviewed staff’s present recommendation, which is to expand the public notice process to include a large notice of public prunings on the affected site and the placement of an ad in the Mercer Island Reporter regarding the same. Ms. Lindell also reminded the Council that “windowing” had now been defined and added to the current draft of the ordinance.

Londi then turned the presentation over to Director Hart and Don Cole for a slideshow presentation about correct versus incorrect windowing, cleaning, thinning, crown raising, crown reduction, crown heading, and topping. Following the slideshow, Ms. Lindell gave a brief discussion of replacement trees, landmark trees, and trees as they relate to shoreline.

After the conclusion of staff’s presentation, Mayor Merkle focused the Council asking if they could make as their goal the generation of a “base ordinance,” which would represent the portions of the ordinance on which Council had reached consensus, and of a separate list of areas on which the Council still had work to do. The Mayor also reminded the Council that prior to being finalized, the ordinance still had to go before the Planning Commission and that there was still public process work left to do on the issue.

Mayor Merkle opened the item for public comment.

Earl Hanson, 2403 64th Avenue SE, appeared before the Council to ask which government entity maintained control of the trees on state-owned property on Mercer Island, such as the I-90 lid. Mayor Merkle responded that as of today the State was still unwilling to allow for pruning of the trees on the lid. He recommended that Mr. Hanson continue to apply pressure to the State regarding this issue.

Steve Bryan, 2426 70th Avenue SE, gave his review of the proposed amendments, stressing the need to increase the tree diameter to lot size ratio as well as the ratio of replacement trees to removed trees. Mr. Bryman further stated his opinion that regulation on flat lots based on a ration is the most fair approach given that it can be applied equally to all residents of the Island.

A resident at 2748 73rd Avenue SE, commented that commercial interests should not supercede the public good. If this were to happen, the resident cautioned that Mercer Island could “wind up more like Seattle or worse.” The resident also expressed his opinions that the 4-inch diameter regulation proposed as a part of the current tree ordinance is too small, and that the number of trees on and removed from any given flat lot should also be factored into the ratio used by the city to enforce tree regulations. The resident concluded by saying that everyone on the Island would have a view of the Cascades and the Olympics if all of the trees on the Island were cut down, but then the quality of life in Mercer Island would be “awful.”

Sylvia Howe, 6 Holly Lane, appeared before the Council to express her opposition to the proposal that administrative waivers be granted for cutting on steep slopes during the rainy season. Ms. Howe also expressed her opinion that “public trees are public landmarks” and should be treated as such. She further stated that private tree management practices should not be extended to public properties.

Bruce Becker, 2535 68th Avenue SE, appeared before the Council to state his opinion that the costs of employing “windowing” as a solution to the tree/view dilemma are too high to be reasonable. Mr. Becker stated that when done by a contractor, windowing can run into the thousands of dollars, which makes it unlikely that it can be used by everyone to solve view problems.

Layton Bergen, 2247 66th Avenue SE, expressed his opinion that the “city has created a monster” with regard to its “micro-management” if the tree/view problems. Mr. Burton further stated his opinion that the owners of public property should have to take into account the wishes of private property owners adjacent to their lands, at least in so far as trees and views are concerned.

George Smith, 6820 96th Avenue SE, began his comments by expressing his opinion that the staff presentation about correct versus incorrect tree maintenance practices had been unfair and “very poor.” Mr. Smith further stated that in his opinion that requiring replacement trees constitutes an illegal taking and unfair tax levied on the citizens by the City. Mr. Smith then gave a short presentation before the Council regarding his personal proposed solution to the tree ordinance situation.

Anne Fox, 2981 74th Avenue SE, thanked the Council for allowing public comment on the proposed tree ordinance. Ms. Fox expressed her support for the regulation of flat lots stating that there has to be some oversight of the urban canopy.

Ira Appleman, 6213 83rd Place SE, appeared before the Council for a second time to express his opposition to the regulation of flat lots and to remind the Council that there are reasons besides view enhancement to prune trees on public property, as in the case of disease.

The Mayor closed the public comment period.

Due to the late hour, a five-minute break was called by the Mayor. The meeting was reconvened at 12:05 am.

Following Council discussion, direction given to staff was to:

Include “Option B” the regulation of flat lots in the base ordinance, with the caveat that the Council may later abandon it in favor of another option. Also, staff is advised to be mindful of the fact that the Council may wish to augment “Option B: Regulation of flat lots using a ratio” to include incentives to the property owner as well. With regard to the issue of pruning public trees, staff is to include the pruning of trees in the public right of way in the ordinance, however, staff is to understand that there is still a great deal of work to do in this area. Additionally, the ordinance needs to reflect that parks, dedicated open space, and trees not belonging to the City of Mercer Island are another issue and will need to be dealt with at a later time. Staff is directed to proceed as previously directed with regard to replacement trees. Finally, in reference to landmark trees, the Council’s consensus is to add “Option C: Regulation of Flat Lots “ to the base tree ordinance. Councilmembers Grausz and Jahncke will continue to work with staff to help generate a draft of the tree ordinance that will be able to be able to go before the tree ordinance. A finalized draft of the tree ordinance is due back to the Council in 30 days or less. A draft of the ordinance will not be placed on the city’s web page until after the Council has revisited the issue one more time.

Open Council Discussion
Due to the late hour, Mayor Merkle deferred Open Council Discussion to the next Council Meeting.

Other Business

Councilmember Absences: Councilmember Clibborn was excused for being absent.

Planning Schedule: There were no changes made to the Planning Schedule.

Board Appointments: The Council appointed Mr. William T. Duvall to fill position 4 on the Open Space Conservancy Trust for the balance of the current term, expiring March 31, 2001, and then for a 4 year term beginning April 1.

Councilmember Reports: Councilmember Cairns re the need to hire a consultant to deal with central business district issues. There was no discussion of this item. There was no action taken on this item.

Adjournment: The Meeting was Adjourned Tuesday, April 3 @ 12:55 am

[Important Note: The proceedings of the City Council meeting were recorded on tape and are filed in the City Clerk's Office. The complete agenda and official minutes of this meeting are also filed in the City Clerk's office.]


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