Lake Forest Park extends moratorium on Town Center development, again

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

A smoky Town Center

Story and photo by Tracy Furutani

The Lake Forest Park City Council voted unanimously to extend the Lake Forest Park Town Center zone development moratorium by another six months, at a council meeting last Thursday evening. 

This action staved off the Sunday expiration of the previous moratorium (Ordinance 1205), which itself was a six-month extension of the original six month moratorium (Ordinance 1197).

The moratorium would continue to stop the acceptance, processing or approval of permit applications within the Town Center zone, with few exceptions, until March 10, 2021. 

Council members noted that the original moratorium and the first extension were to provide enough time for careful consideration of any city code revisions by the city staff, Planning Commission and the City Council.

However, after the first extension was passed, the Governor’s “Safer at Home” proclamation forbade cities from carrying out any tasks that were not “routine and necessary” or “Covid-related”. 

“We determined that that [didn’t include] new Town Center regulations,” said City Attorney Kim Pratt, “so you continued on with everything that had had a public hearing and public input, but the Planning Commission was put on hold for a while cause they couldn’t really consider new things.” 

Recently, the Governor lifted that restriction (Proclamation 20-28.4) and the State Attorney General approved the use of virtual meetings for public input, “so you can do things that are not ‘routine and necessary’. I would say that most cities are holding virtual public hearings to get comments on things like [new legislation],” she said.

Councilmember John Wright praised the work of the Planning Commission, which has been holding extra meetings during the current moratorium, as an example of how effectively the extra time afforded by the original moratorium has been used.

Many council members noted that public meetings mediated via an electronic medium were becoming “normal” and that the Town Center process would have to adapt to holding such meetings in a way, as Councilmember Mark Phillips said, “that is authentic.”

“Moratoriums are matters of serious, serious policy,” said Councilmember John Resha. “We have a circumstance that has put us in a position where we could not engage with the community in a way we felt comfortable. This six-month period really has to be used not just to figure out how but to actually begin engaging and make progress on this work.”

Councilmember and Deputy Mayor Phillippa Kassover agreed, 

“We are going to map out the dates. We are going to understand exactly what our legal responsibilities are when it comes to future hearings, when it comes to the noticing that we must do to our community, and look for the ways that we need to involve our community and keep our community informed and engaged. We’ll work on that and I hope to come back to council with a fairly detailed calendar for the next six months.”

There were three public comments, including a statement from the Lake Forest Park Stewardship Foundation, on the moratorium extension, all of which were in support of the moratorium extension. Two of the comments expressed concern about the lack of adequate notice for public comments on the moratorium extension.

The Town Center owner Merlone Geier Partners was asked for a comment, but had not responded as of press time.


Anonymous,  September 16, 2020 at 12:42 PM  

What the city is failing to understand that Merlone Geier is clearly going to defund the mall, or at least capital improvements to the structure itself. The city's antagonistic position endangers the mall and the businesses there, ensuring that what little business at the mall is left cannot survive. The mall and the city must modify and adapt to the changes in the area. Otherwise, it will be a hollow shell and reminiscent of the past.

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