Joni Earl at Monday's Bellevue city council meeting (click for video)
Joni Earl at Monday’s Bellevue city council meeting (click for video)

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.

22 Replies to “Bellevue & Sound Transit Come to Terms on Light Rail Overlay”

      1. I’m not clear on this – can someone who was at the meeting confirm that the 60′ buffer zone was approved? I thought it was stripped out.

      2. The posted links take you to language that describes a 30′ landscape setback, with more flexible language as to who might own it (an easement over private land, or Sound can own it, appears to be the landowner’s choice), and the 60′ structure setback appears to have disappeared.

        I’d want to read what they actually voted on to be sure….

      3. There were a few revisions to the separation/setback amendments, but I don’t think they were eliminated. I’m waiting for the adopted ordinance to be released.

  1. I have always assumed that the big corporations along East Link (obviously Microsoft being the biggest example) would politely tell obstructionist governments like Bellevue to get with the program or else. I don’t know what “or else” would be necessarily…but, they seem to have been pushing rapid transit expansion for a long time, and I bet are in no mood to see endless delays.

    1. I think there are a lot of employees at Microsoft that have come from around the world(or traveled outside of America) and have experienced what a real public transit system really is. Maybe they are convincing the Microsoft managers to talk to the politicians to tell them to GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!

      1. The rank and file, especially those here on H1B visas are convincing the managers to effect the political process. That’s really dreaming.

      2. Cinesea, Microsoft’s official stance seems to be “more highways more highways,” despite anything the rank and file people ask for.

      3. Ah now, Ben. That’s not true. MSFT definitely has been working with Redmond to speed things up and design the stations/infrastructure with the City and ST. And then some…

    2. Big corporations along East Link do tell Bellevue what to do. They also tell Sound Transit what to do. East Link is routed through residences on the west side of 112th instead of the less-densely populated east side of 112th because the Bellevue Club wanted to protect its tennis courts. (Of course, the condominium owners grabbed the chance to get the heck out of there.) This is a fantastic example of big businesses controlling government (where “government” here is represented by Sound Transit.)

      Microsoft made it damned clear that East Link would NOT stop at Microsoft campus because they don’t want their free employee parking to become a park & ride for all the exurban commuters. Another great example of big business setting the government agenda for the people.

      On a slightly different topic, it’s amusing how much panic there was on this blog just a few days ago. I read comments recommending that we wall off Bellevue with toll roads to punish them for not falling in line. And yet, it turns out that everything has worked out ok, hasn’t it? Maybe if the paranoia gets too vivid you should adjust the meds.

      1. What are you talking about? EastLink is stopping at the Microsoft campus – or as close to it as makes no difference, given the size of the campus itself.

      2. It’s good to hear that something apparently-decent has passed. At this point, I’ll believe it if and only if East Link starts construction on schedule. Yeah, I’m cynical.

      3. asdf: He means Microsoft doesn’t want Overlake to be the terminus, as is currently the plan. They want the extension to downtown Redmond to be built.

      4. I am a Microsoft employee, though, of course, I write only on my own behalf.

        Microsoft requires that any cars parking in its lots have a Microsoft-issued permit. Cars without a permit are towed on a regular basis. Beyond the parking that Microsoft provides on its owned or leased property, I’m not sure what other “free employee parking” exists around the Redmond campus. Technically, Overlake Transit Center has a park and ride lot that anyone can use (because OTC is nominally owned by Sound Transit) but if that’s full, so what? Based on what I’ve seen, Microsoft–especially the folks manning the Commute program–are thrilled with the idea of East Link. Besides, having the connection to downtown Redmond would be a benefit to Microsoft given that it has four rather full buildings in Redmond Town Center and other facilities scattered across north and east Redmond.

      5. I’m sure ST would be happy to finish the line to DT Redmond if Microsoft pitched in the $$$. They voluntarily paid for half of the NE 36th St overpass, after all.

      6. Thanks, Matt–that’s what I meant. I’m pretty sure Microsoft will prevail here. Not that a train to Redmond is bad, mind you.

        redmondRider, I’m also an employee and I assure you there are a lot of garages where you can safely park without a permit. In over ten years I’ve never heard of a car being booted or towed. But even if it does happen all the time, security of the parking lots is an expense, isn’t it? I’m certain the corporation wants to limit that expense. Having a commuter terminus won’t help.

  2. So my read on this is,
    1, Finalize the alignment pronto, including cost saving options like the BTC station config, so property owners are not left in limbo, then
    2. Within 60 days, begin doing appraisals, so that
    3. Permitted work can be done after/during the ‘takings’ process, and finally
    4. Lot’s of leeway for ST to negotiate with individual landowners over what is or isn’t allowed for setbacks, full/partial takings, easements and maintenance of ROW.

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