City Council Rejects Request For Downzone In Lake Burien Neighborhood
Homeowners around Lake Burien lost their request for a downzone to low density in their neighborhood on a 5-1 vote by the city council Dec. 13.
But Councilman Gordon Shaw, who voted against the proposed amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan, suggested a solution for the lakeside residents.
“If there is unanimous approval of all the folks around the lake, there is nothing the city can do to stop you from drafting an agreement to stop you and all your neighbors from subdividing your land,” Shaw said.
“That is your remedy,” he added, noting that 162 of them had signed a petition requesting the downzone to protect the water quality in 22-acre Lake Burien and adjacent wetlands.
Mayor Joan McGilton, Deputy Mayor Rose Clark, and Council members Brian Bennett and Kathy Keene also voted against the downzone.
Lucy Krakowiak cast the lone vote for the request, while Councilman Jack Block Jr. was absent.
For a second consecutive meeting, Lake Burien residents implored council members to downzone the area from medium density (lots with a minimum of 7,200 square feet) to low density (lots with at least 12,000 square feet).
There are only two areas in the city that have “the degree of wetlands that Lake Burien has,” said resident Chestine Edgar. “The best available science says critical areas should be low density” and it would be “purposeful and malicious” to ignore the scientific evidence.
And at their Dec. 6 meeting, Edgar told council members that the requested change was necessary to prevent future over-development around the lake that could threaten water quality.
In 1981, 12 years before Burien incorporated, King County zoned the Lake Burien neighborhood for development. In 1999, the city updated the zoning map to allow moderate density – but overlooked amending the text of its comprehensive plan.
The amendment voted on Dec. 13 brought the comprehensive plan text into agreement with the zoning map.
Edgar pleaded before the vote, “If you have made an error in the past … we are asking you to reconsider.”
Last week, during extensive public comment, Debi Wagner, referring to the petition, said “the people have spoken tonight … we’re all watching you and how you vote.”
Other comments, many of which were stated repeatedly, by Lake Burien residents in the two meetings included:
- The proposed comprehensive plan amendment “has been done without an analysis of the Lake Burien wetlands.”
- The Lake Burien area “meets all the criteria for a rezone.”
- A downzone “will protect the lake” and “show that the Burien City Council is serious about protecting the environment.”
- “Please be the stewards of the public trust.”
But, Greg Anderson said last week, the current map “is not a mistake” and the area “has been rezoned moderate density for at least 29 years.”
Burien Planning Commission member Jim Clingan, who voted against recommending the downzone, said at the earlier meeting that characteristics of the neighborhood “more closely match moderate density rather than low density.
“The entire lake is not a critical area,” Clingan added. “It has been zoned for development since 1981. The city should not deny those who want to subdivide their property.”
His remarks prompted Planning Commission member John Upthegrove to urge the city council “to ignore” property rights and “listen to the people” when they vote on the request.
“To discuss property rights when property rights is not part of the criteria is wrong,” Upthegrove said.
Planning commissioners deadlocked 3-3 when they voted earlier on whether to recommend the downzone to the city council.
At the Dec. 13 meeting, Sam Pace with the Seattle King County Association of Realtors, described the rezone request as “fundamentally flawed” and not in conformity with provisions of the state’s Growth Management Act.
Garrett Huffman with the Washington Master Builders Association noted that homes built today are so tightly regulated that runoff from new construction would not affect the lake’s water quality even with moderate density.
Upthegrove retorted, “When we have people from out of town telling us how to do this, that’s disgusting.”
Keene interjected that while future property rights was not one of the specified criteria for deciding the zoning question, “property rights apply to current property owners.”
McGilton, Clark and Shaw were on the Planning Commission in 1999 when the zoning map was changed. They agreed the primary critical-areas focus on the commission then was on steep slopes that are slide prone.
Last week Shaw said, “No one from the city is coming to [Lake Burien residents] forcing them to subdivide their property … to change the zoning to solve a problem that doesn’t exist is just irresponsible.”