An important step forward for the Aldercrest Open Space

Monday, January 31, 2011

Neighbors listen intently at the Aldercrest meeting
Photo by Alice Lawson
by Diane Hettrick
 
After weeks of work, the Aldercrest Task Force presented their unified proposal at a Ballinger neighborhood meeting on Thursday, January 27.

On a night with a westside meeting on Point Wells, and an eastside meeting kicking off the Lake Forest Park 50th Anniversary celebrations, nearly 60 people packed a classroom at the Living Wisdom School, 2800 NE 200th Street (part of the old Aldercrest Elementary School) to hear the proposals.

The Task Force included representatives from the City of Shoreline, which would have to approve any zoning changes; the Shoreline School District, which owns the property and buildings; the Ballinger Neighborhood Association, which has positioned itself as a place for information to be heard; and the Friends of Aldercrest, the ad hoc advocacy group.

The mobilization began in 2009, when King County was going through the process of selecting a site for a new jail. Each municipality was required to submit a site for consideration and Shoreline staff submitted the Aldercrest site, which belongs to the School District. The School District had recently declared the property surplus, which meant it could be put up for sale. The immediate neighborhood was distressed about losing the playfields and picnic areas. The larger neighborhood was incensed at the thought of a jail on the site. A No-Jail Group formed in Mountlake Terrace, just two blocks away. The Friends of Aldercrest was formed, quickly joined by citizens across Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.

When jail plans were scrapped, everyone's attention turned to preserving the open space for the community. (See previous article about the jail.)

Planning Director Joe Tovar explains the zoning proposals
Photo by Alice Lawson
The proposal, which will be sent to the Planning Commission on February 20, lays out specific zoning changes for the site. 

Underlying the proposal is the agreement that the School District will offer 16 acres of the property for sale. A buyer would be required to deed 6 acres of the purchase to the City of Shoreline for a park, and in return, would be allowed higher density on the remaining parcels.

The complete proposal, comprehensive plan maps and proposals, and zoning is on the City of Shoreline website.

Joe Tovar, Director of Shoreline Planning and Development Services, presented the zoning proposals and Economic Development Manager Dan Eenerisee talked about what development might look like at the site. 

No buyer is currently talking to the School District. "We couldn't even consider offering it for sale, or even getting an appraisal," said Superintendent Sue Walker, "until we know what the zoning will be."

The audience was extremely civil for such an emotionally laden issue. One neighbor spoke of his lack of trust that the City had their best interests at heart. He said the entire area should be single-family residential. Another member of the audience told him "That ship has sailed." Sean Osborn, who said he lived so close that he "walked here without a jacket" said he had tried to get information about what was happening and no one responded. "It feels like a backroom deal," he said.

Janne Kaje, Co-Chair of Friends of Aldercrest, says, "The collaboratively developed proposal for Aldercrest was the culmination of a great deal of work and tremendous efforts at outreach for nearly two years by dedicated neighbors. It was anything but a backroom deal. As most neighbors will attest, the Friends of Aldercrest has gone to great lengths to get neighbors involved and informed and invited to participate. We have doorbelled every home in the vicinity several times; we have maintained an e-mail list to inform interested folks of our meetings and other events; we have circulated flyers, set up booths at farmers markets, marched in parades and spoken out at public meetings. The concept of a partial rezone to make the win-win solution possible has been talked about openly since at least Fall 2009, when we hosted Shoreline City Council candidate forums at LFP Montessori School."

Tovar pointed out that this meeting was the culmination of the work of the Task Force and that comments and concerns expressed that night would be responded to in the staff report they will take to the planning commission’s public hearing in February.

"One idea was the need to talk with more specificity about the type and timing of improvements to 25th Ave NE to meet parking, pedestrian safety, and other needs. Another was a concern that perhaps the 'institutional’ use listing was too open ended and should be narrowed to exclude such uses as, for example, a jail."

The next part of that public process will be the Planning Commission hearing which is scheduled for February 17. Notice of that hearing will be sent out to the neighbors as well as posted on the site.

Janne Kaje facilitates the Q and A. Photo by Alice Lawson.
Janne Kaje, Co-Chair, Friends of Aldercrest, who facilitated the question and answer portion of the meeting, noted that as a member of the Planning Commission which will hear the proposal, he will recuse himself from all discussions about Aldercrest.

Shoreline Schools Superintendent Sue Walker commented that "This has been a collaborative effort between the District, the City staff, the Ballinger Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Aldercrest that does create a win—win for those involved. For the District, it means we can hopefully build an endowment for coming generations of students, and for the city and neighborhood, the preservation of a beloved open space in the Ballinger community."

Members of the community can attend the Planning Commission meeting and make comments about the proposal. It was suggested that the comments "be thoughtful and add value" to the discussion.

1 comments:

Janne Kaje February 1, 2011 at 10:29 AM  

The collaboratively developed proposal for Aldercrest was the culmination of a great deal of work and tremendous efforts at outreach for nearly two years by dedicated neighbors. It was anything but a backroom deal. As most neighbors will attest, the Friends of Aldercrest has gone to great lengths to get neighbors involved and informed and invited to participate. We have doorbelled every home in the vicinity several times; we have maintained an e-mail list to inform interested folks of our meetings and other events; we have circulated flyers, set up booths at farmers markets, marched in parades and spoken out at public meetings. The concept of a partial rezone to make the win-win solution possible has been talked about openly since at least Fall 2009, when we hosted Shoreline City Council candidate forums at LFP Montessori School. We are very aware that neighbors will be affected by ANY changes at Aldercrest. My co-Chair is one of those neighbors who shares a fence line with the site. For that reason, we specifically negotiated provisions in the proposal to protect the privacy and interests of neighbors, particularly in the R-6 single-family zone to the east. Without this agreement, none of those protections will be in place. This is a fantastic opportunity to secure a permanent park for generations to come in the Ballinger Neighborhood. Let's make it happen!

Janne Kaje
Co-chair, Friends of Aldercrest

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