In one of its rare 7-0 votes, the Bellevue city council unanimously adopted a light rail overlay into its land use code last night. If you’re confused about what was actually adopted versus what was proposed, you’re not alone. The land use code amendments went through multiple iterations in the past week, some of which occurred the night before the council meeting. The bottom line, however, is good news: the overlay, as adopted, would no longer add significant delay to East Link.
If we rewind to last week’s council meeting, you might recall that those batch of amendments could have stuck 12-24 months of delay on the schedule, simply because of restrictions on Sound Transit’s ability to apply for permits. The restrictions were worrying enough for ST to prompt both parties to go back to the drawing board– negotiations in the ensuing days churned out so many revisions that City staff had to color-code the amendment alternatives for Monday’s meeting.
The end result is a kind of give-and-take agreement. Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl gave the council her commitment, in person, to ask for board authorization of property acquisition no more than 60 days after adoption of the final alignment. The City, on the other hand, agreed to an amendment which would allow ST to apply for permits after initiating the property appraisals process (Alternative 1 on slide 5 - .pdf), whereas last week’s draft would have required waiting until after initiating condemnation. Ultimately, the net outcome keeps East Link on schedule.
The adoption of the overlay is one step in fulfilling the Memorandum of Understanding (.pdf) that was signed between Bellevue and Sound Transit in 2011. ST is expected to wrap up environmental work on the cost-savings work next month, paving the way for a hopeful April date in approving the final alignment.