Preserving Woodinville Wine Country
Over the decades, business owners in Woodinville Wine Country have worked with the city government to create a plan for the business district that's profitable for the businesses and beneficial to the community as a whole. It distinguishes Woodinville as a tourist destination that draws visitors from all over the world.
In 2009, that vision was clouded by applications from the largest developer in the district. They requested a long list of changes that included auto dealerships, warehouse stores, and department stores.
In 2012, developers tried to get King County to shift the Urban Growth Boundary so that they could develop nearly 32 acres, including more than 11 acres of agricultural land. This proposal would have paved farmland and obscured views of the valley. In other words, it would have destroyed a part of Woodinville Wine Country that is most critical for attracting tourists to visit downtown Woodinville.
I worked with neighborhood, environmental, and business groups to defeat the changes, and together we succeeded in preserving the Sammamish Valley and Woodinville's plans for its tourist district.
But we're not done yet. The King County Executive and Woodinville City Council are conducting a joint project to identify projects that will benefit Sammamish Valley agriculture and the wine industry. Woodinville's most specific proposal at the moment is a request that King County give Woodinville the southern portion of the King County ballfields in the tourist district, for retail development.
These issues have high stakes for Woodinville. Keep the bar high and we develop as a world-class small town. Lower it—the likely outcome if developers buy a Council majority—and we propel ourselves down a path that at best condemns us to mediocrity. At worst it destroys the long-term viability of Sammamish Valley agriculture and the drawing power of Woodinville Wine Country.
Planning our downtown
Since Woodinville's founding, there has usually been a majority of Councilmembers who have been elected with the help of contributions from the DeYoung family and their developer friends. The consequences have been a Woodinville that falls short of where I think we should be. With a population as well-educated and prosperous as Woodinville's, we should have more locally owned businesses, more and better restaurants, and better access to locally sourced organic food.
Did you know that Downtown Woodinville Center—the shopping area that includes Target, Top, and the movie theater—is the same size as University Village? Think of the difference in quality and ambiance. With our demographics, we should be closer to a University Village or Mill Creek look and feel.
I've worked hard to develop a plan for a downtown that's appealing and economically successful, accommodates our population growth, and has a unique vibe that makes visitors want to come back again and again. There's a long way to go, but with your help we can elect a City Council that achieves the goal of a downtown with soul.
Protecting our neighborhoods
Woodinville's citizens typically move here for just a couple reasons: good schools, or the natural beauty of our landscape. Whatever the reason, you've invested in a lifestyle. You've undertaken a social contract to be part of a specific culture and aesthetic.
You expect to uphold your end of the bargain. You have faith that your neighbors will uphold theirs. You should be able to rely on the City Council to help protect your lifestyle and your investment.
I entered Woodinville politics by fighting to preserve the safety and character of my neighborhood. I've fought for other neighborhoods over the years. This is my most fundamental issue, and you can count on me to continue to protect citizens' interests when they come into conflict with the profit motives of irresponsible developers.
Evolving our industrial districts
Industrial land is having a hard time getting any respect these days. It used to be that retail sales from industries like building materials brought significant sales tax revenues to cities. Now, because of changes to Washington's sales tax structure, those sales taxes go to the city where goods are delivered, not where they are sold. This change has led to a greater fall in Woodinville's revenues than any other city in the region.
Between the sales tax restructuring and the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, it seems as if industrial zones no longer benefit a city.
Don't believe it.
Industrial jobs are still the highest-paying jobs for workers with less education, and are still the gateway to the middle class for many of our neighbors.
Industrial businesses provide more, better jobs per acre of land than the retail businesses that are proposed to replace them. And companies that sent their manufacturing offshore are recently bringing it back to the US—they've found that the cost savings at home more than make up for the low wages overseas.
So overall, I'm a defender of preserving our industrial land.
That's not to say I'm opposed to all evolution. Small wineries, private schools, and recreational facilities rely on the low rental rates and large spaces that are available only in industrial zones, and those businesses are valuable to our families and the future of the city.
But we do need to think about how we want to evolve and what we need to do to get there. It doesn't serve us well to have children running across parking lots where semi-trucks are trying to maneuver. We don't need to convert industrial land to retail: we already have over 170 acres of redevelopable land in our downtown. And if we were to "preserve" our downtown by allowing large chain stores in the industrial area, chain stores always win the competition so locally owned businesses would shut down.
The point is, we don't do ourselves any favors by making facile decisions or letting the market run wild. Issues like this merit all the care and thoughtfulness we can bring to bear.
As I talk to people all over town, the top request people mention to me is the same as the one Woodinville's Public Works Director receives: People want more sidewalks and crosswalks between neighborhoods and schools.
They'd also like better pedestrian and bicycle connections between neighborhoods and business districts, and trails connecting Woodinville's parks.
Pedestrian and bicycle facilities are one of my two top capital priorities. And I want to start with connections between neighborhoods and schools.
Keeping Woodinville running
In November 2010, when Woodinville was over 17 years old, we achieved one of my top goals: we purchased a Public Works facility. That translates into plowed snow, clean parks, and flooding that never happens.
Traffic – It's time to get moving!
I had a conversation one day with a high school student who lives near Lake Leota. He described waiting as long as 11 minutes for an opportunity to turn left from the Lake Leota neighborhood road onto Woodinville-Duvall Road.
His story is one that resonates with most of us: our roads are extremely burdened, and our traffic delays are excessive.
Think of the impacts. Children aren't safe walking to school so their parents drive them, which makes the traffic problems even worse. Parents with long commute times have less time to spend with their families. And our businesses' balance sheets are worse off because their drivers, or their deliveries, are stuck in traffic.
I believe that our next spending priorities need to be on congestion relief and safe sidewalks and cross-walks, especially near schools.
Regional Partnerships – Teaming up with our neighbors
Woodinville is a collaborative venture among multiple overlapping jurisdictions. The Woodinville Water District provides our drinking water and sanitary sewer; the King County Sheriff provides our police protection; the Northshore School District educates our kids, and so on.
Even our streets are not under our sole control. The Woodinville city limit goes down the middle of several streets; some of our arterials are state highways; railroad rights-of-way limit the changes we can make.
All of these considerations point to a need for strong and diverse partnerships. Forging those bonds requires a sense that all parties are ready to work collaboratively and agree on practical, achievable solutions.
Mayor Bernie Talmas and I have worked hard for the past four years to improve Woodinville's reputation around the region. For the first time in its history, Woodinville always has Councilmembers at regional transportation, salmon recovery, policy, and mayor's meetings. It means early mornings, late evenings, miles traveled, and delays in traffic.
Regional stature takes time to build. It can be eroded if Woodinville stops showing up, or sends representatives who alienate our regional neighbors. Woodinville's citizens deserve the region's respect, and we're working to achieve and maintain it.